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
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
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.