Inno delle nazioni (Hymn of the Nations) dramatic
cantata (1862) [12:46]
Libera me, Domine (from Mass for Rossini)
Quattro pezzi sacri (Four Sacred Pieces) (1888-97)
(i. Ave Maria (1888) [5:40]; ii. Stabat Mater (1896)
[13:24]; iii. Laudi alla Vergine Maria (1893) [6:08]; iv.
Te Deum (1897) [16:01])
La vergine degli ageli (May the Virgin of the Angels)
from opera La forza del destino (The Force of Destiny)
Barbara Frittoli (soprano), Francesco Meli (tenor)
Orchestra and Chorus of Teatro Regio, Torino/Gianandrea Noseda
rec. 15-17 July 2010, Main stage, Teatro Regio, Torino, Italy. DDD
CHANDOS CHAN 10659 [70:35]
These choral works by Verdi are overshadowed by his great Requiem
Mass and are consequently often overlooked. Maestro Noseda
has been doing a first-class job in Manchester from 2002 as
principal conductor of the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra. Sadly
his final appearance as their chief conductor was on 16 April
2011 in a concert performance of Verdiís Otello at the
Bridgewater Hall. Noseda will become conductor laureate of the
For these choral scores Noseda has turned to all-Italian forces.
The soloists are renowned Milanese soprano Barbara Frittoli
and Genoa-born tenor Francesco Meli. The feature work is the
Four Sacred Pieces - a score with three or four fine
alternative versions in the catalogue but it certainly hasnít
been recorded anywhere near as often as its quality deserves.
Soon after working on The Force of Destiny in 1862 Verdi
composed the dramatic cantata the Hymn of the Nations.
It was the intended as the Italian entry for the International
Exhibition in London in 1862. The score calls for tenor soloist,
referred to as ĎThe Bardí in the text, sung by Francesco Meli,
a four-part mixed chorus and orchestra. It is a setting of words
by Arrigo Boito, the librettist especially noted for Otello
and Falstaff. It did not actually feature at the International
Exhibition but when performed (with a soprano soloist) in London
it was to considerable acclaim. This celebratory work sung with
tremendous fervour includes references to France and Italy.
In deference to Queen Victoria there is a verse of ĎGod Save
the Queení at the conclusion.
To mark Rossiniís death in Paris in 1868 Verdi suggested that
the composers of Italy should unite in honour of Rossini. A
scheme was hatched that each composer would collaborate gratis
and contribute part of a Messa per Rossini to be performed
once only at Bologna on the first anniversary of Rossiniís death.
Initial performance preparations were put in place. However,
the collaborative project experienced several difficulties and
never came to fruition. Verdiís contribution was the closing
section the Libera me, Domine cast for soprano solo,
four-part mixed chorus and orchestra. Verdi later reused the
Libera me Domine for his great Requiem Mass (Manzoni
Requiem) with a few alterations necessary from the original
to ensure a good fit.
Verdiís Four Sacred Pieces were actually premiŤred as
three Sacred Pieces in 1898 in Paris. Verdi dropped the Ave
Maria from the performance. The Ave Maria was performed
as part of the set later that year in Vienna. Its four panels
can be summarised as follows:-
i. Ave Maria on an Ďenigmatic scaleí harmonised for four-part
mixed chorus a cappella, in Latin
ii. Stabat Mater for four-part mixed chorus and orchestra,
iii. Laudi alla Vergine Maria (text taken from Canto
XXXIII in Paradiso of Danteís Divine Comedy) for four-part womenís
chorus a cappella, in Italian.
iv. Te Deum for double mixed chorus and orchestra, in
I have several versions of the Four Sacred Pieces including
accounts from the Berlin Philharmonic and the Ernst Senff Chamber
Choir/Giulini on Sony, Orchestre Rťvolutionnaire et Romantique
and the Monteverdi Choir/Gardiner on Philips and the Berlin
Philharmonic and the Swedish Radio Choir and Stockholm Chamber
Choir/Muti on EMI. Most outstanding of all is the version from
Carlo Maria Giulini with the Philharmonia Orchestra and Chorus
on EMI Classics. Produced by Walter Legge, this was recorded
in 1962 at Londonís Kingsway Hall. My current copy is the wonderful
sounding 2010 reissue on the EMI Classics, Masters series titled
Great Classical Recordings. The coupling is Giuliniís justly
famous 1963-64 Kingsway Hall account of the Requiem on EMI
Classics 6 31821 2.
The Ave Maria for unaccompanied mixed chorus is a haunting
score. Nosedaís Teatro Regio Chorus is attractively toned and
sing well. Giulini takes the tempo a little slower than Noseda.
I immediately noticed the superior sound from the refined and
highly unified Philharmonia Chorus. Giuliniís womenís choir
sound remarkably angelic with the menís choir providing a sturdy
The substantial Stabat Mater is highly dramatic with
Nosedaís Turin forces contributing a sparkling and buoyant performance.
Giuliniís Philharmonia chorus is noticeably more powerful with
singing of considerable weight together with resounding orchestral
accompaniment. Giuliniís climaxes remain quite awe-inspiring
- spine-tingling stuff. The glowing string sound from the Philharmonia
also takes the ear. Remarkable too is a glorious hushed quality
to the Amen.
Probably the most immediately appealing of the set is the lightly
textured and captivating Laudi alla Vergine Maria for
unaccompanied womenís chorus. Nosedaís Turin choir offers attractive
singing and is stirring on occasions. Giuliniís choir with their
impeccable unity sounded angelic. Here Giulini takes a slightly
quicker pace than Noseda.
For mixed chorus and orchestra the Te Deum is the lengthiest
piece and the most complex of the set. It is generally acknowledged
as containing the finest writing - best appreciated after several
plays. The piece also includes the setís only part for solo
voice. Nosedaís Turin choral forces are in excellent voice sounding
particularly reverential. They take great care over the meaning
of the text. The Turin brass sound thrilling and I was struck
by the gleaming timbre of the strings. For Noseda soprano Barbara
Frittoli is suitably pious in her small solo part. A little
quicker than Noseda, Giuliniís stunning interpretation feels
weightier and has additional vitality with breathtaking climaxes.
The orchestral accompaniment from the Philharmonia shines through
- especially the brass - to grand effect. Janet Baker can be
heard singing serenely towards the conclusion.
The final score on the Chandos release is Mary the Virgin
of the Angels, the concluding chorus with Leonora from act
II of the opera The Force of Destiny (1861/2). Verdiís
librettist for the opera was Francesco Maria Piave.
Renowned soprano Barbara Frittoli has pleaisng clarity of diction
combined with a most glorious tone. The pronounced wobble on
her sustained notes may prove a distraction for some. In the
Libera me Domine from the Mass for Rossini Frittoli
remembers appropriately that she is not singing in a Verdi opera
and is suitably reverential. I was highly impressed with Francesco
Meli, a clear-toned tenor with a top register that reminded
me a little of Pavarotti. Meliís voice is sufficiently powerful
to soar over the chorus in the Hymn of the Nations.
The Chorus of Teatro Regio of Torino is in impeccable form:
heartfelt, reverential and decisive. I found them especially
rousing in the Hymn of the Nations and tenderly devout
in the Stabat Mater and Laudi alla Vergine Maria.
With notable unanimity and potency the Teatro Regio Orchestra
respond with conviction to Maestro Nosedaís thoughtful promptings.
The Chandos presentation is to the high standard that we have
all come to expect. I was impressed by the quality of the booklet
notes which included a fine essay and full texts with English
translation. The sound quality is reasonably clear, however,
I was a touch uncomfortable with the brightness of some of the
forte passages. This is a compelling disc and reminds
us again that every Noseda disc is worthy of investigation.