Customer Review

24 of 29 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very fine but not really special, 28 Sep 2009
This review is from: Verdi: Messa da Requiem (Audio CD)
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.
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Tracked by 3 customers

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Showing 1-10 of 25 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 3 Oct 2009 23:54:50 BDT
Last edited by the author on 8 Jan 2011 00:07:07 GMT
Ralph Moore says:
I knew very well that even if I wrote a perfectly temperate review giving four good stars (actually, on reflection, one more than this is worth) I would get a lot of no-vote hits, probably from people who really aren't very acquainted with, or experienced in, the discography of this piece. It doesn't change a thing: this isn't really that wonderful compared with the truly great recordings. The only way to get consistently approving votes on Amazon.uk is to give everything five stars indiscriminately; Amazon.com punters are much more likely to give you credit for having a thoughtful response and do not seem to mind a debate half so much, whereas on Amazon.uk those who disapprove of a review rarely have the courtesy to engage but just slap on a no-vote. I am heartened to read the review from Adamos which chimes with mine and also provides sensible comparisons; the other five-star reviews just gush. I cannot understand why people no-vote considered opinions when they are quite at liberty to disagree about what is ultimately a subjective thing - but I make it a principle never to give negative votes to an opinion which is clearly based on knowledge and some expertise even if I totally disagree with it. I only wish the hit and run specialists would do the same.

In reply to an earlier post on 4 Oct 2009 21:35:50 BDT
Adamos says:
I'm not generally inclined to post comments after reviewing myself, but I felt compelled to this time: I can hardly believe we are all reviewing the same CD.

In reply to an earlier post on 3 Nov 2009 21:37:43 GMT
I sympathize with you for you have, indeed, written a temperate review and have put much thought into expressing as clearly as is possible in written language, your reservations and your pleasures. I have not heard this particular disc - it is sitting by my CD player: an unexpected birthday present - but I would like you to know that your review will enhance my concentration on the aspects you mention. I have found that I have had approving responses to my reviews of classical music, even when I have awarded only one or two stars and have tried to warn potential buyers of pitfalls, giving chapter and verse for my opinion. The same is NOT true with books, however, and I have noted several petulant comments about my reviews in the past. I am not sure why this is. Anyway, please do not be discouraged and go on reviewing in your thoughtful and lucid manner.

In reply to an earlier post on 3 Nov 2009 22:52:44 GMT
Last edited by the author on 3 Nov 2009 22:54:20 GMT
Ralph Moore says:
Thank you for your support. I posted the same review on Amazon.com to more favourable responses and was asked which recordings I would recommend over this one. Of course this disc, especially as it was a present, will give you pleasure, but my first choices are as follows:

The best of all, I think, is available on DVD only: Karajan's 1967 La Scala performance with Price, Cossotto, Pavarotti and Ghiaurov. On CD, you have to decide if the tempi that Reiner and De Sabata opt for are too slow for you; they work for me. The best Toscanini is the 1951 RCA Red Seal re-mastering or even the 1940 "Music & Arts" version - but both are in limited mono sound, of course. Bernstein is unbeatable for thrills and he has excellent singers. For me, though, a favourite recording has to have either Bjorling, Di Stefano or Pavarotti as tenor and I very much like the 1987 live Muti La Scala recording -although others seem less enthusiastic. As you see, I would prefer any of those to the set under review, and would even place others by Solti, Karajan, Fricsay, the new LSO Live Davis and even Leinsdorf (featuring Bergonzi) above it.

Reviewing books leaves you wide open to abuse - and with DVD's/films, it's even worse; the nutters gather in packs to abuse you! That's why I generally restrict myself to the more rarified and specialised world of classical music - but even there, you can get savaged.

In reply to an earlier post on 4 Nov 2009 19:43:38 GMT
It was very thoughtful of you to provide some suggestions for good recordings. I have both of the Fricsay recordings and find them satisfying enough. Used to own Toscanini on black disc years ago and, as you rightly say, the mono sound was limited even though the performance seemed to me to be rather special. As you can see, the Pappano is the first stereo recording in my collection! Your further recommendations are really very helpful. Thanks again.

In reply to an earlier post on 10 Nov 2009 03:28:26 GMT
Last edited by the author on 10 Nov 2009 15:57:21 GMT
Hi, Ralph. Having recently heard Toscanini's 1951 performance (remastered by the Japanese label Opus Kura), I've found it the best of historical recordings, certainly the conductor's most outstanding version: I own his three other recordings - two with Milanov (1938 and 1940) and one with Tebaldi (1950) - and treasure this one on account of di Stefano and Siepi, who sing with heart and soul. Their studio performance under de Sabata (Naxos) isn't distinguished, compared to this one, thanks in chief to the conductor's desperately slow (and often erratic) tempi: compare, for instance, di Stefano's entry under Toscanini which he sings with a single breath and that with de Sabata whose leisurely tempo forces the tenor to breathe between 'Kyrie' and 'eleison' (another thing is the presence of Schwarzkopf, to my mind no match for other contemporary sopranos singing this role). Though I also share your admiration for Arroyo under Bernstein (both audio and video versions), I dislike Muti's La Scala version (his tempi are annoyingly erratic, Pavarotti and Ramey being the real stars, Studer and Zajick only passable).

PS I'd be grateful if anyone could post feedback on any of the following recordings: Maazel (Medici Arts), Gergiev (I understand about Bocelli, but is it entirely worthless?), Bosch (Coviello), Bychkov (Profil), and Domingo (Glor).

In reply to an earlier post on 10 Nov 2009 16:01:15 GMT
Last edited by the author on 10 Nov 2009 18:20:50 GMT
Ralph Moore says:
In the Gergiev, Bocelli's absurd inadequacy simply invalidates the performance as a whole, and the bass is very ordinary - but of course the ladies have something to offer, even if Fleming is not entirely comfortable in so heavy a role. I agree on the 1951 Toscanini; De Sabata's speeds annoy me less but it's true that Di Stefano is more animated and freer for Toscanini; nor do I think Schwarzkopf suitable for such a seminally Verdian role. I don't know the others - but I quite like aspects of the Barenboim recording with Domingo and Alessandra Marc.

In reply to an earlier post on 10 Nov 2009 16:22:00 GMT
Last edited by the author on 10 Nov 2009 16:22:45 GMT
Thanks, Ralph, for the reply. I ordered the Barenboim recording a few days ago, as well as a Russian performance which I couldn't resist, because it has Vishnevskaya (Melodiya): both sets should arrive soon with the Chandos 'Don Carlos' :-)

In reply to an earlier post on 10 Nov 2009 18:23:21 GMT
Ralph Moore says:
As long as it's Vishnevskaya before she became too harsh and shrill; she certainly has the heft and temperament for the part and I'd be interested to hear what you make of it. Thank you for your contribution to our discussion!

In reply to an earlier post on 14 Dec 2009 15:26:29 GMT
I managed to give the Melodiya recording a listen. The single disc (78 minutes) features a live 1960 performance (in acceptable mono sound) conducted by Alexander Melik-Pashaev. The female soloists, Galina Vishnevskaya (soprano) and Irina Akhipova (mezzo), acquit themselves well, notably the latter. While Ivan Petrov (bass) is in fine voice, Vladimir Ivanovsky (tenor) is slightly disappointing as far as his breath control and Slavic intonation are concerned. Conducting the Glinka Academic Chapelle Chorus (their accent is variable) and the Leningrad Philharmonic Orchestra, Plashaev favours (sometimes unwisely) fast tempi. Recommended only as a supplement to other recordings of the work. 3 1/2 stars.
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