> VERDI Opera Choruses Rizzi 0927408362 [RMK]: Classical Reviews- January 2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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HOFFNUNG for CHRISTMAS? an ideal Christmas present for yourself or your friends.
Books posted the day the order is received


Giuseppe VERDI (1813-1901)
Opera Choruses

Va, pensiero!
Gli arredi festivi
Tre volte miagola
Patria oppressa
La battaglia di Legnano
Giuriam d’Italia

I Lombardi alla prima crociata

O Signore, dal tetto natio
Il trovatore
Vedi! Ie fosche
Don Carlo

Spuntato ecco il di

Fuoco di gioia!
Gloria all’ Egitto
Choir and Orchestra of the National Academy of Saint Cecilia / Carlo Rizzi
Recorded: Conservatorio di Musica Santa Cecilia, Rome, September 1992 DDD
WARNER CLASSICS APEX 0927 40836 2 [61.09] Superbudget


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This is a seriously good CD and, costing only £4.99, represents astonishingly good value. As a general point Carlo Rizzi is very much in charge. He treads a superbly balanced line between the competing powers of orchestra and chorus; now holding one or other in check then balancing them in strong crescendo or diminuendo.

Track one is a favourite which is so hummable: Va, pensiero. After a strong introduction the choir is successively lyrical then powerful. Here is a slightly edgy tone of longing for the homeland concluding on superbly fading notes for holy support.

Having started with a favourite from Nabucco the second track takes us back to the opening scene of the opera. Here again the chorus is in supplicant mode. It divides for male and female voices before the final verse. This gives the opportunity to hear first the clear tones of the male voices where there are some excellent tonal contrasts and, after a melodic introduction on the harp, we have the gentle tonal contrasts of the female voices. The concluding verse brings all together again with excellent contrasts between the different vocal sections.

The witches from Macbeth appear next. On a personal note I always find it difficult to reconcile my concept of evil hags in the play with these superbly melodic creatures in the opera. That problem is exacerbated by the slightly quick tempo of this scene together with the lyrical groups of witches who sound rather fun.

Any such reservations are removed entirely in Patria oppressa! where the Scottish refugees mourn their plight. This is set in ‘a barren place’ so evocatively played by the orchestra. Sharp brass, and then thin strings conjure up the scene, with the chorus coming in superbly softly. They develop in power and emotion with strong tonal variation while the orchestra continues its plaintive cries.

I Lombardi on track six will have you flicking back to track one. There are musical similarities created by Verdi; and also created by this recording which emotively recall happier times. The second extract from I Lombardi - Gerusalem! is particularly poignant now (Christmas 2001) with all the troubles besetting its many peoples. Here again, with strong orchestral accompaniment, the chorus divides and regroups. The male voices again provide some fine contrasts.

The Gypsy camp from Il Trovatore is set well by the orchestra but just a shade too fast for the chorus to maintain their clarity of diction. This Anvil Chorus is hammered home reducing emphasis and contrast. Don Carlo is one of Verdi’s most dramatic works: and the chosen extract contrasts the joyous people celebrating the Coronation with the sombre monks about to despatch heretics. It is emphasised here by a lyrical crowd and dirge like monks. This grand–scale scene is made vibrantly alive.

The Cypriots celebration at the return of Otello sounds just that in Fuoco di gioia! It is bright and melodic with different parts of the choir blending, separating and re-aligning. You can ‘see’ the final flame flare up and die away. Triumphalism must conclude; so we go to Aida and the returning victors. Orchestra and chorus combine strongly before we have sectional contrasts. The March itself is not overdone. This is not "in your ear" big brass band sound. It is compellingly clear, leading into the Ballet and the final choral contribution. This is indeed a welcoming and celebrating crowd.

Finally a brief comment on the accompanying booklet with libretto and translation. This also contains Act and scene details and a comprehensive review of the political background of the extracts. Verdi chose these texts because he believed that successful opera is based on confrontation and passionate emotion: it is a fortunate "spin-off" that they were also political and helped publicise his music and the cause of Italian nationalism.

Robert McKechnie


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