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Giuseppe VERDI
I vespri siciliani: Overture
Messa da Requiem
Amy Shuard Anna Reynolds Richard Lewis David Ward
Philharmonia Chorus and Orchestra

Mass in E flat, D950
Anne Pashley Sybil Michelow David Hughes Duncan Robertson William McCue
Scottish Festival Chorus - New Philharmonia Orchestra
Carlo Maria Giulini
Recorded - Royal Albert Hall, London, 7th August 1963 - Overture 5th August 1963 - Requiem Usher Hall, Edinburgh 31st August 1968 - Mass
BBC Legends - BBCL 4029-2 - STEREO (ADD) Total time 152.37 - two discs
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This recording of the Verdi Requiem was made in London a few months after the famous EMI recording produced by Walter Legge. There are some interesting comparisons to be made between the two, and not all are in favour of the studio performance.

Orchestrally, there is not much to choose between the two recordings although there are certain differences between them. The live environment gives an extra dimension over the studio performance, although the studio recording has plenty of vigour. The new version has that little bit extra allowing for the fact that there are also a few slips.

The acoustic (Royal Albert Hall) allows the loud choral passages room to expand, whereas the EMI disc, good as it is, sounds somewhat cramped and overbearing. Am I the only one to hear slight distortion here? The BBC recording is much better in this respect, although the EMI recording is superficially the more impressive, being, as it is, richer. One thing the EMI recording does not have however is the background coughs and splutters. Thank God the Proms are in the summer. What might recordings like this be if they were made in the winter?

The soloists are as good, given that they are all local lads and lasses, compared with the international team conjured up by Walter Legge. Their somewhat superior blending may be because of the fact that they were not international, and maybe the music came first. There are however, one or two entries that would have benefited from a retake.

The Schubert, I have compared with the Sawallisch recording and the BBC comes out well against this. Tempi are very similar, and the main difference is in the attack, being much more secure with Giuini. Here the years of experience with opera and choral works shows. The Scottish choir is excellent, and when I first listened to these discs, without studying the written material, I was surprised to find that the chorus was not the same as in the Verdi. I will say no more than that.

These recordings are well up to the better BBC Prom and Edinburgh Festival recordings, done before they started to spoil many broadcasts with excessive and disfiguring compression. Any sonic limitations, such as they may be, can confidently be ignored, if you are trying to decide whether or not to buy this disc: not a replacement for the EMI recording (Requiem), but a very good alternative.


John Phillips


John Phillips

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