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Verdi: Messa da Requiem - Muti

Verdi: Messa da Requiem - Muti

CSO Resound  CSOR9011008 (2 discs)

Stereo/Multichannel Hybrid

Classical - Vocal


Verdi: Messa da Requiem

Barbara Frittoli (soprano)
Olga Borodina (mezzo-soprano)
Mario Zeffiri (tenor)
Ildar Abdrazakov (bass)
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Ricardo Muti (conductor)

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Review by John Broggio - September 26, 2010

This is the first release of the Chicago SO with their new music director Riccardo Muti and in many ways it is a tremendous success.

Many listeners who have held reservations about Harnoncourt's approach to this work (see Verdi: Messa da Requiem - Harnoncourt), will be relieved to find that this account has bigger voiced soloists, a bigger chorus and a very "operatic" take to this stunning music. Like Harnoncourt, Muti requires 2 discs (and comes in at 89:38 compared to 87:43) but this hides what is really happening in Muti's reading: speeds are exaggerated in both directions compared to Harnoncourt to heighten the emotional effect of this already potent score.

The soloists are on good form although it must be said that their sound is somewhat fruity and tremulous after Harnoncourt's very "pure" sounding team. There is nothing wrong with some vibrato and the unanimity of its speed and size between the quartet is a thing of wonder in itself although some may well find that the overall variance of pitch a little wide in the performing climate of today but it is usually easy to identify the notes around which the soloists are centring their pitch. Of any in the team, the tenor Mario Zeffiri comes closest to wobbling away to another key - especially when under strain but Barbara Frittoli also sails close to wind on occasion. In the booklet, stress is made that all are favourites of Muti's - this maybe true but I think a better team could have been found.

The chorus is altogether more powerful than the Arnold Schoenberg Chor and better balanced between each section, as the constituent elements of the chords and moving parts are far more easily identifiable. The orchestra are naturally, a little less prominent due to others coming more to the fore. That said, they are (on the basis of this disc) easily the equal, if not superior, of Harnoncourt's VPO. A shame that the soloists couldn't match the refinement of the chorus' singing under pressure.

Muti's direction is, as one might expect, little short of inspired - indeed it was his earlier performance from La Scala that ignited my interest in Verdi - the emotions are not hidden away behind a cloak but celebrated openly in a way that is becoming increasingly unusual in Western society as a whole; as such it is wonderfully refreshing but a hard listen. Indeed, the end of the Dies Irae is almost too much to bear with its frequent lamentations underpinned by "angelic" string writing and playing. Like Harnoncourt, Muti is using the recently published new edition of the score and whilst the parts used may have the (subtle) corrections made, one is left with the distinct impression that Muti has not significantly re-evaluated his vision of this work nor how the artists should perform this music - an aspect that will attract some as much it repels others!

The sound is also very good, with the extra trumpet fanfares being placed in front of the listener. One must commend the audience as well for not revealing their participation, especially during the many, rapt pianissimo passages. Likewise, there is none of the characteristic congestion that plagues concert recordings made in the Musikverein of mid/late Romantic music onwards. For all the clarity though, no sense of warmth has been lost nor is it overly analytical sound - it just "is".

Recommended with slight reservations about the vocal quartet, for the CSO and chorus react like they are possessed under Muti's inspired direction.

Copyright © 2010 John Broggio and HRAudio.net

Performance:

Sonics (Multichannel):

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Review by Graham Williams - November 18, 2010

Riccardo Muti has had along association with the music of Verdi, so it is fitting that his first release on the CSO Resound label since becoming the tenth director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra should be the Verdi Requiem, a work that he has recorded twice before for EMI.

In an interview with Phillip Huscher, reproduced in the booklet accompanying the discs, Muti says that he regards the Verdi Requiem as 'a fight between men, women and God', and that in this work the participants are not asking God for eternal rest and deliverance, but demanding it. On this recording Muti's dramatic conception is characterised in musical terms both by his incandescent 'Dies Irae', full of rage and elemental power, and his joyous forthright 'Sanctus', among the fastest and most thrilling on record. Elsewhere he is attentive to Verdi's markings, but not without a degree of interpretive flexibility.

The playing of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra is beyond reproach and the fine Chicago Symphony Chorus is on particularly impressive form, singing with exceptionally clear diction throughout the work. Occasionally the delivery of the text is over exaggerated, for example 'Quantus tremor est futurus' in the 'Dies Irae' seems unconvincingly melodramatic.

Unfortunately Muti's lofty and compelling conception of the requiem is, as so often on recordings of this work, seriously compromised by the variable quality of the solo quartet. Barbara Frittoli characterises her part with admirable commitment, but under pressure the heavy beat in her voice undermines her performance and becomes wearing on repeated listening. The tenor Mario Zeffiri is also unsteady and his pinched tone is far from what is required in this work. Essentially, his is a light lyric tenor voice being pushed too much. There are no problems with Olga Borodina's rich well focussed mezzo although she is in even better voice on Semyon Bychkov's recording Verdi: Messa da Requiem - Bychkov . Ildar Abdrazakov's splendidly firm and sonorous bass is heard to great effect in the 'Mors Stupebit' and 'Confutatis 'sections of the requiem and his contribution is one of the main strengths of this performance.

The recording successfully captures the heaven-storming scale of the work (terrific bass drum) and the balance between orchestra, chorus and soloists achieved by Christopher Willis is well-judged. The surround channels are used mostly for ambience.

Sadly the benefits of hi-rez sound are not a compensation for the deficiencies in the solo team and in the final analysis those wanting Muti's take on this work are better served by either of his earlier recordings.

Copyright © 2010 Graham Williams and HRAudio.net

Performance:

Sonics (Multichannel):

stars stars