Aureole etc.




Golden Age singers

Nimbus on-line




Faure songs
Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett



Giuseppe VERDI (1813-1901)
Requiem Mass (1874)
Maria Caniglia (soprano)
Ebe Stignani (mezzo soprano)
Beniamino Gigli (tenor)
Ezio Pinza (bass)
Chorus and orchestra of the Rome Opera House/Tullio Serafin.
Digital transfer of a performance recorded in 1939 at the Royal Opera House, Rome (ADD)
NAXOS 8.110159 [72.47]


Crotchet   AmazonUK   AmazonUS  Amazon recommendations

This recording has some formidable rivals, and it must immediately be said that anyone looking for a convincing performance of Verdiís masterpiece would do well to avoid it, even at bargain price. It has sometimes been suggested that the Requiem is "too operatic" to be successful as a sacred work. Whether that is a fair criticism may depend on particular performances, but under Serafin the choir, orchestra and a starry line-up of soloists conspire to highlight its florid aspects at the expense of the reflective, reverent qualities of Verdiís rich and colourful score. Brisk tempi may work well in such large set-pieces as the Dies Irae, but in this reading an immense amount of important detail is lost due to driving speeds that amount to sheer negligence. The quirky nature of the original 1939 analogue recording also makes for some uncomfortable moments, added to which there is a serious lack of balance between choir, orchestra and soloists, a boxy acoustic and, in places, noticeable inaccuracies of pitch.

Compensation for such worrisome matters is sorely needed, and comes mainly after a helter-skelter Rex tremendae in sections where the soloists are allowed to have more of their own way with the words. Gigliís voice is at its mature best. It shines in the Ingemisco, and later reaches lyrical heights in the affecting Hostias. Pinzaís expressive and sensitive control is impressive throughout, especially in the Confutatis and, having fought off an over-excited choir, all the soloists give of their best in the Lacrymosa. Yet surely Verdi would not have wanted to hear his masterpiece performed under a conductor who seems to have forgotten that it is intended for a cathedral, not an opera house.

Much-admired analogue recordings of the Requiem by Toscanini and Giulini can occasionally be found, and are well worth acquiring. However my vote goes to a thrilling account that combines subtlety and drama in a beautifully judged (through undated) performance on Deccaís 1995 remastering in a two-CD set (444 833-2), with Leontyne Price, Rosalind Elias, Jussi Björling and Giorgio Tozzi, the choir of the Musikfreunde, Vienna, and the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Fritz Reiner. This was recorded in 1959. For some Reinerís tempi may seem a little too leisurely (a total playing time which makes it a surprising 22.41 slower than Serafinís). Nevertheless this treasured interpretation shows clearly how much is lost by the rashly fast speeds encouraged by Serafin. A worthwhile bonus on the Decca disc is Verdiís rarely-heard Four Sacred Pieces with Yvonne Minton, the Los Angeles Master Chorale and LA Symphony Orchestra conducted by Zubin Mehta.

Roy Brewer

Reiner's treasured 1959 Vienna interpretation shows clearly how much is lost by the rashly fast speeds encouraged by Serafin. Surely Verdi would not have wanted to hear his masterpiece performed under a conductor who seems to have forgotten that it is intended for a cathedral, not an opera house.


Return to Index

Untitled Document


Reviews from previous months
Join the mailing list and receive a hyperlinked weekly update on the discs reviewed. details
We welcome feedback on our reviews. Please use the Bulletin Board
Please paste in the first line of your comments the URL of the review to which you refer.