20 of 26 people found the following review helpful
As good as you'll hear today,
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This review is from: Verdi: Requiem (Audio CD)
I hesitated in deducting one star from my assessment of this live, La Scala recording and would prefer to be able to award four and a half, but in the context of six or seven decades of accounts of this most recorded and grandest of choral works, it isn't quite up there with the very best and I have good reasons for saying so.
In some ways, my reaction to this excellent performance is similar to that to the Pappano recording from 2009 with two of the same soloists, but this one is better, not only because Harteros and Pape surpass their contributions for EMI but also because Garanca is considerably preferable to Ganassi. This version also benefits from a really superb choral contribution which breathes new vigour and expressiveness into the old war-horse. Time and again, Barenboim has them delivering the text with real pointedness without their sounding self-conscious; their first "Requiem" really makes you sit up, especially as they are so well recorded, such that we get fullness of sound but also detail. Everything is in focus, from the bass's whispered "Mors" to the cataclysmic choral outburts in the "Dies Irae".
However, for all that Harteros is fine, she is not, pace one previous reviewer, the equal of the likes of Leontyne Price in her prime; her tone is not absolutely pure and she tends to slide. Thus her "Sed signifer" slides in dreamily but then she spoils the effect with a sloppy A-flat on the ensuing word "sanctus" and her final "Requiem" on another A flat at the end of track 8 is a slight disappointment. She hasn't the amplitude of tone to fill out the great arcing lines; indeed not one of the excellent soloists here is actually Italianate in timbre - especially Kaufmann, an artist I hugely admire, although I am almost persuaded by the tenderness of his delivery in the "Ingemisco" and the "Hostias"; he also has the heft to thrill the listener when he lets rip. Pape is simply not an Italian bass, although he sounds better than I have heard him in a while. There is little saturnine menace or the trenchant, treacly tone we hear from the likes of Siepi, his top notes tend to blare and he has a tendency to pounce on words in an ungainly, Germanic fashion. Garanca is impressive without effacing memories of really Italianate mezzo-sopranos like Cossotto or Dominguez.
Barenboim's conducting is interesting: detailed and measured, bringing out the beauty, tenderness and spiritual profundity of the music without much tension or drive at key places such as the "Quam olim Abrahae". In a sense, this recording is all of a piece in that it doesn't go for a large-scale, extrovert interpretation but emphasises the pathos of the words and music; Kaufmann's delivery epitomises that approach - yet I still want a little more theatricality than we get here.
You won't hear a better modern performance, however, and this is as good as any we have heard for many a year, not least for its superb engineering.
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Showing 1-10 of 12 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 18 Sep 2013 08:44:03 BDT
Thanks for a measured and thoughtful review. It leaves me wondering why two out of five people did not find it helpful. I do wish those who click 'no' would give their reasons. The blue meanies strike again!
In reply to an earlier post on 20 Sep 2013 20:21:50 BDT
Last edited by the author on 21 Sep 2013 08:48:12 BDT
Idiotic; it's a kind of fascism to no-vote a reasoned appraisal. It's not as though I slam this recording and I certainly stand by my response. It seems to me that those who pounce on my review lack taste, experience, knowledge - and tolerance of informed opinion.
In reply to an earlier post on 13 Oct 2013 19:50:57 BDT
Mr. L. Denham says:
I agree Ralph - in fact I think you are too kind with this recording really, since I was rather disappointed with it. It is very good by today's standards but one cannot help but look at the shelves and see recordings by Solti, Bernstein, Karajan (DVD), Giulini, Muti, Abbado (EMI), de Sabata, Reiner, Markevitch, Fricsay and Toscanini (who have I forgotten ?) to realise no-one in their right mind is going to place this performance before them. Five stars then is just purely misleading. Me? Three and half stars - it lacks a certain Italianate fire, ironic in light of its provenance. With best regards, Lee
In reply to an earlier post on 13 Oct 2013 23:04:59 BDT
Thanks, Lee; I err on the side of generosity to try to avoid looking like one of those habitual curmudgeons for whom nothing post 1970 is good enough - but I agree that it's hardly the one you'd reach for when you want a really Italianate earful.
In reply to an earlier post on 12 Jun 2016 11:01:00 BDT
J. Forbes says:
People who "pounce on your review", in other words people who disagree with you "lack taste, experience, knowledge - and tolerance of informed opinion".
My oh my. What arrogance.
Your words brought this to mind: "The law is the embodiment of everything that's excellent, and I, my friends, embody the law". WSG.
In reply to an earlier post on 12 Jun 2016 11:32:56 BDT
Last edited by the author on 12 Jun 2016 11:56:44 BDT
Thanks for your comment. I do my best. I appreciate that my comment might come across as arrogant but I sometimes weary of snide attacks from people more concerned with point-scoring than engaging with my music. Most of my reviews are not dogmatic but an attempt to evaluate fairly.
I have no problem with disagreement.
In reply to an earlier post on 12 Jun 2016 11:52:42 BDT
Mr. L. Denham says:
Whilst I am sure Mr Moore is quite capable of defending himself, I do rather feel your words are at best unfair, at worst perhaps missing the point, Mr Forbes. Some of us (and I note you are one of this merry band) do our best to write reviews where we go to great lengths to try and explain our thoughts on the product/recording in hand, to give readers an idea of what to expect from it. It is therefore somewhat puzzling when somebody then claims it to be "unhelpful", not least when Amazon allows them to hide behind the cloak of anonymity, which is surely the point being made by Adamos at the beginning of this discussion ? For the record, I always find Mr Moore's reviews of great interest - I don't always agree with what he says (I felt he was far too generous with this recording, for example - and said so), but at least I know why he is saying it. And I also share his frustration when people come along and state "not helpful" without giving their reasons why - which probably explains the tone of his response above. Either way, it's good that Decca have released this recording of the Verdi Requiem for the public to enjoy - and even better that they have recorded Barenboim in the Elgar Symphonies too, recordings, I would contend, will be talked about for longer than this Verdi Requiem will stay in the memory.
In reply to an earlier post on 12 Jun 2016 11:59:26 BDT
Last edited by the author on 12 Jun 2016 17:29:08 BDT
Thanks, Lee. It would indeed be weird if we always agreed but you correctly identify the cause of my irritation.
In reply to an earlier post on 12 Jun 2016 15:36:16 BDT
'People who "pounce on your review", in other words people who disagree with you "lack taste, experience, knowledge - and tolerance of informed opinion".
My oh my. What arrogance.'
Clear-eyed and well-noted, J.
In reply to an earlier post on 15 Jun 2016 02:08:12 BDT
Last edited by the author on 15 Jun 2016 02:19:48 BDT
J. Forbes says:
I don't disagree with most of what you wrote, Mr Denham, but I didn't miss the point.
ETA, in a spirit of peace and goodwill and all that, I thought the original review was pretty good, though I would not have termed the requiem as "this grandest of choral works".