Aureole etc.




Nimbus on-line




If it’s the Czech works you’re after, do not hesitate

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett


CD REVIEW

Some items
to consider

 


Enjoy the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra wherever you are. App available for iOS and Android


Tudor 7188


Vaughan Williams Symphony 3 etc.


Lyrita New Recording


Lyrita Premiere Recordings

Lyrita 4CDs £16 incl.postage

Lyrita 4CDs £16 incl.postage


Decca Phase 4 - 40CDs


Judith Bailey, George Lloyd


BAX Orchestral pieces


CASKEN Violin Concerto

Schumann Symphonies Rattle


Complete Brahms
Bargain price

 

 

 

 

Not available in the USA

alternatively Classicsonline AmazonUK

 

Giuseppe VERDI (1813–1901)
Un ballo in maschera (1859)
Giuseppe Di Stefano (tenor) – Riccardo; Tito Gobbi (baritone) – Renato; Maria Callas (soprano) – Amelia; Fedora Barbieri (mezzo) – Ulrica; Eugenia Ratti (soprano) – Oscar; Enzo Giordano (baritone) – Silvano; Silvio Maionica (bass) – Samuel; Nicola Zaccaria (bass) – Tom; Renato Ercolani (tenor) – A Judge/A Servant of Amelia
Chorus and Orchestra of La Scala, Milano/Antonino Votto
rec. 4–9 September, 1956 in the Teatro alla Scala, Milan
NAXOS HISTORICAL 8.111278-79 [70:01 + 62:01]

Experience Classicsonline


Recorded exactly a month after Columbia’s Il trovatore, conducted by Karajan and, in the main, with the same principals, this Ballo also finds Callas in uncommonly good voice. The recording is what we have come to expect from La Scala of this vintage, clear but not very atmospheric, the La Scala acoustics being fairly dry. After Karajan’s alert conducting of Trovatore, one would have thought that Antonino Votto might stand out as reliable and rather routine. In fact he is better than his reputation. The prelude is well-shaped – perhaps a bit laid-back – and the opening chorus is rendered dark and ominous, laying bare the major conflict of the drama. Likewise he handles the stormy prelude to act 2 with the poignancy it needs. Both Amelia’s aria and the ensuing duet with Riccardo are really ignited by the conductor. So by and large Votto provides a fine canvas as backdrop before which this taut masterpiece is to unfold.

The La Scala Chorus and Orchestra – the chorus trained by legendary Norberto Mola – are prime forces and the line-up of comprimario singers boasts names like the reliable basses Silvio Maionica and Nicola Zaccaria as the leading conspirators. Michael Scott’s description in the liner-notes of Eugenia Ratti’s voice as ‘a typical steam-whistle like scream’ is to my mind rather unfair. It is no doubt a bright voice but I hear it rather as silvery and spirited – in other words what I expect from an Oscar. Fedora Barbieri is also rather unflatteringly described in the notes, but while she wasn’t quite in the Simionato or Cossotto class she was a true mezzo-soprano in the old Italian school and she is a strong and expressive Ulrica in the sinister scene in her dwelling.

Tito Gobbi, always responsive to words, the dramatic situation and the state of mind of his characters, makes the most of Renato, even though the first act aria Alla vita che t’arride is a bit bloodless. At least partly the conductor is to blame for not giving more positive support – Leinsdorf and Solti in their 1960s recordings are much more vivid. As usual Gobbi also has his moments of pinched tone. But in the first scene of act 3 he really shows his mettle. His wrath and despair at Amelia’s and Riccardo’s deceit is exposed in horrifying terms and when he pours his contempt on Riccardo in the aria, words initially almost fails him. Eri tu (It was you) he whisper towards Riccardo’s portrait, and then the wrath grows. Then, when he sings O dolcezze perdute! (O bliss that I have lost!) his tone and expression becomes so loving. The whole aria is a horrifying zooming-in on the soul of a person whose whole world has been broken into splinters. This is one of the great assumptions on record!

Callas on top form never misses an opportunity to wring the last drop of intensity out of her two arias and the act 2 scene by the gallows is a masterpiece of visual singing. Her colouring of the phrases is so expressive that we instinctively know what she looks like. As a contrast the resigned Morrò, ma prima in grazia in act 3 is eternally moving.

The duet in act 2, Teco io sto, has a special affection for me, since it was the first ever recording of the piece that I bought 45 years ago on an LP ‘Callas in Duet’. Hearing it in context it is even more obvious what a superb radar-couple she and Di Stefano were at their best. Di Stefano’s ardent and warm Riccardo is one of his best recorded roles and he is hushed and mellifluous in Di tu se fedele in the Ulrica scene but I wish Votto had speeded it up a bit – I miss the bounce. È scherzo od è follia is much closer to the mark and Di Stefano sings it with a chuckle in the voice.

In the last act Riccardo’s aria is warmly sung but there are some unwelcome signs of pinched tone here that were to become more prominent during the next few years. The death scene is however soft and touching.

Un ballo in maschera had few recordings during the first two decades of the LP era. Besides a 1954 Cetra set with Tagliavini as a good but slightly lachrymose Riccardo, there was Solti’s on Decca with Birgit Nilsson and Carlo Bergonzi - it was to have been Jussi Björling but the conductor and tenor ended up on non-speaking terms during the sessions in Rome, and when the recording was resumed Björling was already dead. Then came an RCA set with Leontyne Price and again Bergonzi. The latter has always been my favourite with Leinsdorf a more positive conductor than either Votto or Solti, Bergonzi the ideal Riccardo and Leontyne Price’s smoky-toned Amelia less individual than Callas but still a splendid assumption. The supporting cast is excellent and the sound is first class. Of later essays first prize must go to Muti on EMI with Martina Arroyo and Placido Domingo. Abbado on DG is a runner-up with Ricciarelli and Domingo (again) and Bruson a fine Renato. Whichever version one has or buys Callas’s and Gobbi’s contributions to the Votto set will never be surpassed and Di Stefano is up there among the best, too.

Göran Forsling 


 




 


Gerard Hoffnung CDs

Advertising on
Musicweb


Donate and get a free CD

New Releases

Naxos Classical

Hyperion

Musicweb sells the following labels
Acte Préalable
Alto
Arcodiva
Atoll
CDAccord
Cameo Classics
Centaur
Hallé
Hortus
Lyrita
Nimbus
Northern Flowers
Redcliffe
Sheva
Talent
Toccata Classics


Follow us on Twitter

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing
sample
 


EXPLORE MUSICWEB INTERNATIONAL

Making a Donation to MusicWeb

Writing CD reviews for MWI

About MWI
Who we are, where we have come from and how we do it.

Site Map

How to find a review

How to find articles on MusicWeb
Listed in date order

Review Indexes
   By Label
      Select a label and all reviews are listed in Catalogue order
   By Masterwork
            Links from composer names (eg Sibelius) are to resource pages with links to the review indexes for the individual works as well as other resources.

Themed Review pages

Jazz reviews

 

Discographies
   Composer
      Composer surveys
   National
      Unique to MusicWeb -
a comprehensive listing of all LP and CD recordings of given works
.
Prepared by Michael Herman

The Collector’s Guide to Gramophone Company Record Labels 1898 - 1925
Howard Friedman

Book Reviews

Complete Books
We have a number of out of print complete books on-line

Interviews
With Composers, Conductors, Singers, Instumentalists and others
Includes those on the Seen and Heard site

Nostalgia

Nostalgia CD reviews

Records Of The Year
Each reviewer is given the opportunity to select the best of the releases

Monthly Best Buys
Recordings of the Month and Bargains of the Month

Comment
Arthur Butterworth Writes

An occasional column

Phil Scowcroft's Garlands
British Light Music articles

Classical blogs
A listing of Classical Music Blogs external to MusicWeb International

Reviewers Logs
What they have been listening to for pleasure

Announcements

 

Community
Bulletin Board

Give your opinions or seek answers

Reviewers
Pat and present

Helpers invited!

Resources
How Did I Miss That?

Currently suspended but there are a lot there with sound clips


Composer Resources

British Composers

British Light Music Composers

Other composers

Film Music (Archive)
Film Music on the Web (Closed in December 2006)

Programme Notes
For concert organizers

External sites
British Music Society
The BBC Proms
Orchestra Sites
Recording Companies & Retailers
Online Music
Agents & Marketing
Publishers
Other links
Newsgroups
Web News sites etc

PotPourri
A pot-pourri of articles

MW Listening Room
MW Office

Advice to Windows Vista users  
Questionnaire    
Site History  
What they say about us
What we say about us!
Where to get help on the Internet
CD orders By Special Request
Graphics archive
Currency Converter
Dictionary
Magazines
Newsfeed  
Web Ring
Translation Service

Rules for potential reviewers :-)
Do Not Go Here!
April Fools




Return to Review 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.