Symphonica Toscanini/Lorin Maazel: Verdi - Messa da Requiem
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Norma Fantini, Anna Smirnova, Francesco Meli, and Rafal Siwek are featured with Lorin Maazel conducting the Symphonica Toscanini and Coro del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino in this 2007 performance at the basilica of St. Mark's in Venice.
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Cossotto has never been a particular favorite of mine; however, she truly shines in this video giving a most moving account of her music. Perhaps Karajan kept her in line getting the very best, from her that she had. Her voice blends very well with Price's voice. Their duet is exquisite.
A very young (pre-superstar status) Pavarotti looks scared to be in front of Karajan and surrounded by some of the world's greatest singers, of the time, gives a wonderful performance singing with sweetness and care even if he is glued to his score. He shows why he was to become superstar material.
Ghiaurov sounds like rolls of thunder anchoring the whole quartet of soloist with his deep resounding bass voice.
Karajan seems to be literally pulling out the beautiful sound of the orchestra, soloist and chorus, with his bare hands. He even sheds tears when Leontyne is singing--who wouldn't?
If you love beautiful music and want to hear what a once-in-a-lifetime performance is all about, run (don't walk!) and get this DVD. It will change your life or in the least make it so much better, and isn't that what music is all about?
Title: "Eternal Richness Unlikely Ever to be Surpassed"
This performance portrays a special kind of beauty, elegance and dignity. There is always the precisely coordinated handiwork of von Karajan conducting with smooth elegant energy that reverberates throughout the artists work. No beats are missed here. One gets the sense that the chorus at La Scala consist exclusively of "stand alone" soloists with talent not unequal to that of the featured soloists in the quartet. Their accompaniment by the La Scala Orchestra and its powerful magnitude offers the listener one of those rare privileges to experience on this earth. To combine them for a performance of Verdi's Requiem is a most exquisite marriage.
"The Requiem" is made up of highly magnificent orchestral accompaniment just as a matter of course. But it should be of special note to mention here the Tuba mirum, an especially exhilarating presentation. It features the powerful woodwinds that includes pairs of trumpeters performing while stationed from balcony locations in the theater.
The choral components of this production are rich showcases for top vocalists as they perform solos alone as well as duets, trios, and quartets with each other. There is Luciano Pavarotti prior to his days as the superstar that he became. His opening presentation of the Kyrie eleison is -"less Pavarotti"- than his later solo performance of the Ingemisco. Here we can hear him as we now know him. All four members of the quartet which includes Fiorenza Cossotto, Leontyne Price, and Nicolai Ghiaurov, as well as Pavarotti, are especially magnificently blended in the Offertorio. As the Offertorio comes to a close there is the sense that we have reached "THE" peak in terms of beauty for our ears. But, of course, there is much more to even exceed this.
If one is in search of "THE MOST" compellingly moving and beautiful part of the performance, the Libera me seems to be it. Leontyne Price does the honors as we would expect her to do with the Requiem aeternam portion of the Libera me. Here she is able to linger over a part that is exquisitely written and executed. This part is clearly a showcase for the Soprano whose role it seems to be to take us to "THE" final magnificent culmination. It has been said that Verdi wrote this composition with this particular expectation for his Soprano. As the Libera me continues to the final Libera me domine, the La Scala O and C combine to take us to "THE MOST" magnificent culmination. As the full impact of the orchestral brass is joined by the sopranos in the Chorus, I would like to have heard Price's "Soprano" highlighting it all. This, however, does not happen at La Scala. We are left with no sight or sound at this point of Price until she returns to do the final plea for deliverance. Thankfully, in the 2001 performance of "The Verdi" with Angela Gheorghiu singing and Claudio Abbado conducting the Berlin Philharmonic, we are lead to this magnificent culmination by "the" Soprano. Her voice is the jewel in the crown of the Chorus at Berlin. In this 1967 production with von Karajan and Clouzot there was for me this one disappointment but hardly is it a negative. It is more a matter of personal taste.
Finally, this is Verdi's Requiem. Classical music doesn't get any better than this. This is La Scala. They are believed by most to be without peer. This is a production that brings beauty, elegance and dignity to music that results in an eternal richness unlikely to ever be surpassed.
Price, Gihiaurov, and von Karajan are as close to perfection as one could get. Cossoto is great and I was totaly unaware of her before this recording. However, if you listen closely you'll hear her having some difficulties vocally in two areas. You'll have to hear and find out for yourself. Pavarotti was too nervous and stiff for me and I wish a more seasoned tenor could have been chosen. However, he possessed the voice in spite of his stage presence.
My disappointment is that Von Karajan allowed the chorus to accompany Price as she soared to those beautiful notes in the Libera Me. Trust me; she needed no help. It would have been the icing on the cake if she had been allowed to do it alone. I would have loved to have seen her soar alone as well!!!
The orchestra and chorus were simply amazing.
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Don't miss it.
But I wouldn't pay $250 for this.
You can get this recording at Tower REcords for 18 bucks.