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Giuseppe VERDI (1813-1901)
Opera Choruses
Nabucco, Gli arredi festivi [5.07]
Va pensiero, sull’ali dorate [4.52]
Ernani, Un patto! Un giuramento Si ridesti! [2.07]
I Lombardi, Gerusalem! Gerusalem [5.35]
O Signore, dal tetto natio [3.53]
Attila, Urli, rapine, gemiti, sangue [2.01]
Viva il re dale mille foreste [1.25]
Del ciel immense volta [1.37]
Chi dona luce al cor? [1.47]
Il Trovatore, Vedi! Le fosche noturne spoglie (Anvil chorus) [2.53]
Rigoletto, Ziti, ziti, moviamo a vendetta, [1.31]
La forza del destino, La Vergine degli angeli (Mirella Freni (soprano))  [3.24]
Compagni, sostiamo, il campo esploriamo  [2.31]
Nella guerra e la follia [2.01]
Rataplan (Dolora Zajick (mezzo)) [2.49]
Macbeth, Patria oppressa il dolce nome 6.50]
Requiem, Sanctus [2.31]
Chorus and Orchestra of La Scala, Milan/Riccardo Muti
rec. La Scala Theatre and Abanella, Milan, 1986-1991
EMI CLASSICS CDC 7 54484 2 [53.43]


In the period of these recordings, Verdi, Muti and La Scala were virtually synonymous. Muti made his conducting debut in Florence in 1969 with I Masnadieri and the first of his Verdi opera recordings, Aida, for EMI in 1974. This Aida was the first of a Verdi series made in London when he was principal conductor of the New Philharmonia, which during his tenure was permitted to revert to its original name of the Philharmonia in recognition of its improvements under his tenure. As well as with those EMI recordings, Muti began to make waves among Verdians in his strict adherence to the notes the composer actually wrote as distinct to what had become common or traditional practice. Although this did not extend to his interpretation of tempi or dynamics he would not allow singers unwritten high notes. This caused waves in Florence in 1977 when he conducted Il Trovatore and refused to permit the traditional high C at the end of Manrico’s cabaletta di quella pira insisting on the written B natural. He was the first to conduct a Verdi opera in a Critical Edition when he conducted Rigoletto in Vienna in 1981 again eschewing, to the tenor’s horror and appalling vocal and acted behaviour on the opening night, the high note at the end of La donna e mobile.

At his first opening night as conductor at La Scala in 1982, a great honour, it was Ernani but without Silva’s cabaletta. The audience response was mixed, but they must have known what to expect when he took up the post of Musical Director of the theatre in 1986. By that time there had been no performances of any of Verdi’s great central trilogy of Trovatore, Traviata and Rigoletto for over twenty years; the legacy of the Callas and Tebaldi years hung heavily over the theatre and conductors. He remedied that, often using young and relatively unknown singers – ones who looked and could act the part and didn’t quibble at the eschewing of interpolated, unwritten, high notes. In each case his approach was one of strict adherence to the notes as written by Verdi. A series of recording, both live and studio emanated from Muti and the Milan forces. The Ernani is available on CD (review) and DVD as well as Attila, La Forza del Destino, the central trilogy, Don Carlo and the Requiem as well as discs of Verdi overtures and choruses.

Muti brought the same discipline to the training of the La Scala chorus as he did to the theatre orchestra and principal singers. Sloppiness, which can afflict some Italian choruses, was just not on. This collection of choruses deriving from both live performances and studio recordings illustrate this to perfection with choral sonority, the coping of fast tempi and pinpoint articulation very much in evidence. Muti had been a pupil of Votto who had assisted Toscanini. Far too often Muti tends to follow the Toscanini tradition as to fast tempi. This is very evident in The Anvil Chorus from Il Trovatore (tr. 10) in particular. Elsewhere he is not so metronomic and allows the Verdian line to soar and the chorus to glory in their lovely Italianate sound as in the excerpts from I Lombardi (trs. 4-5). By contrast he limits the soaring sonority that Gardelli finds in his rendering of the famous Hebrew Slaves Chorus (Decca) seeking more inner reflection perhaps. A major weakness of this rather sparse collection is the selections from La Forza del destino (trs. 12-15). Taken from the live performances in 1986, the sound is distinctly distanced and whilst Dolora Zajick’s Rataplan (tr. 15) has power and élan, Mirella Freni is not comfortable in La Verginine degli angeli (tr. 12).

There are no notes in the booklet but the words are given complete with translations in English, German and French.

Robert J Farr



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