This is the second choral recording from the
Great Recordings of the Century series to cross my desk in the
last few weeks, and I regret to inform the public, that they are
not getting any better. I think perhaps it is time for the producers
of this line to reconsider their promotional material and just
call these discs "tired old recordings".
To the hapless church choir baritone who needs
a study recording of the famous Vivaldi Gloria this might
seem like a logical choice. An instantly recognizable conductor,
famous soloists and a big name orchestra should make for a grand
slam, right? I am afraid that instead we have a shutout, and Vivaldi
is the loser. Sigh.
Perhaps in 1978 when this issue first hit the
streets, it would have passed for a somewhat informed performance.
After all, the period instrument movement was still relatively
young, and our ears were not completely accustomed to the sound
of baroque music performed in a seventeenth century style as opposed
to a nineteenth. And, one is to admire a big star conductor like
Riccardo Muti for putting aside the Brahms and Beethoven for a
go at some earlier fare. But was it really necessary to disguise
Vivaldi in Verdi’s clothing?
So after all that, I suppose I should relate
the ills of this performance. Let us begin with the soloists.
Now, Teresa Berganza is no slouch of a singer to be sure, and
I myself have given her raves in this very forum for recordings
of music that are suited to her talents. This music is not. Her
machine gun vibrato and sloppy coloratura are a true detriment.
The singing is so heavy in places that she is unable to complete
phrases that any Emma Kirkby or Evelyn Tubb could sing in a single
breath with a gallon of air to spare. Lucia Valentini Terrani
fares little better, and in the lower portion of her range sounds
like a caricature and not a serious artist.
The choir, which in truth does not play all that
important a role in these pieces sings well in tune and their
enunciation is clear enough, but they are entirely too large a
group to sing this music with any effectiveness. Combine them
with the stand-heavy New Philharmonia and the result is lugubrious
and turgid, with tempi erring far to the slow side, and an over
legato approach to articulation that fairly murders the style.
Program notes are quite informative from history’s
view, but one senses trouble when the entire last paragraph is
an apology for the dated nature of the performance, complete with
a couple of notable movements highlighted as "saving graces".
Sound quality is acceptable but not spectacular.
Frankly, we do not need this recording. It has
been long surpassed by specialists in the repertoire and this
performance will serve to confuse the unenlightened and infuriate
the informed. Perhaps it was fine for its day, but its day has
long passed and it is time for this one to be retired and stop
taking up valuable shelf space.
of the Century