This requiem recording had bypassed me for years. I'd made the mistake of seeking out Karajan's later studio recording first, but this jumps into my top three on all fronts. The star is Freni whose beautiful voice rises well above any fortissimo Verdi or Karajan throw at her. Ludwig is so well suited to the Requiem, she doesn't try to compete with the soprano as other mezzos seem to do. The Recordare is magical - Freni and Ludwig's voice blend majestically.
The surprise of the recording is the tenor, Cossutta, who can control the volume of his hefty voice extremely well - in fact he gives a lesson to the likes of Pavarotti and Domingo. He honours the score markings religiously and his voice is pleasing throughout, though some might dislike his vibrato. Ghiaurov is as reliable as ever, though, to be picky, his attack on the Confutatis is certainly not "Con forza" - so a little disappointing.
The chorus of the Vienna Singverein make a fabulous fifth soloist. Their colouring and power is impressive. Karajan and his Berlin Philharmonic are purposely slow in places but it works, and, in particular, the Rex tremendae is tremendous (forgive me). The Lacrymosa builds like I have seldom heard it before - every layer of the vocals and orchestra get through to leave you quite spent. My single disappointment is the Dies Irae which does not inspire the outright fear that you get with the Decca recording under Solti. But that aside, if you are looking for a single recording of Verdi's masterpiece I recommend this one very highly.