Top positive review
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Very fine but not really special
on 28 September 2009
If you knew no other recording of the Verdi "Requiem", this one would be more than satisfactory; indeed it is very fine indeed. The sound is spectacular, the orchestral playing superb, the choral singing by turns nuanced and powerful - really expressive - and Pappano's direction mostly unerring. One might quibble about details such as the over-emphatic staccati he applies to "ne absorbeat eas" in the "Offertorio" or a slight lack of "lift" in "quam olim Abrahae" in that same movement - indeed it is only there that I experience some minor disappointment, being used to more impetus and the kind of swagger you get from Bernstein - but by and large tempi and phrasing are admirably judged. My main reservations come with the soloists: each is undoubtedly fine but equally each is definitely surpassed elsewhere and none has a very identifiable vocal personality - Harteros and Ganassi sound very similar, for example and that is mainly because Ganassi is not a true Verdi mezzo; both voices lack the necessary lower register weight and Harteros cannot float and expand a note the way Leontyne Price or Martina Arroyo could. There is also a little edge to Harteros' soprano where more Verdian warmth is required. Pape is suitably black-browed but again, the top of his voice does not bloom and there is a dryness and lack of Italianate bite which a bass such as Siepi evinced in his several recordings. It is good to hear Villazon back in good voice and he gives a really sensitive, beautifully shaded account of his two big "arias" (shall we call them!), but he is no Bjorling or Bergonzi and there is a lack of gleam in his husky tone.
This is still a very fine account and will give much pleasure; there are almost none of the lapses in intonation so common in recordings of this wonderful music - especially in live ones, such as this - and so much here is right. It's not so much what is wrong, as what is missing that causes me to knock off a star in my rating. I can imagine other listeners being wholly satisfied with this excellent EMI recording and perhaps I am being too fussy, but as a self-confessed Verdi "Requiem" nut and a voice fancier who owns dozens of different recordings, I am fairly sure that there are at least half a dozen which I might prefer to listen to before this one.