Giuseppe VERDI (1813-1901)
Messa da Reqiuem [89:28]
Barbara Frittoli (soprano); Olga Borodina (mezzo); Mario Zeffiri (tenor); Ildar Abdrazakov (bass)
Chicago Symphony Chorus/Duain Wolfe
Chicago Symphony Orchestra/Riccardo Muti
rec. live, Orchestra Hall at Symphony Center, 15-17 January 2009
SACD issued as CSOR 901 1008
full track-list at end of review
CSO RESOUND CD CSOR 901 1006[48:08 + 41:20]

Released in 2010, this CSO Resound recording of Verdi’s Requiem is based on concert performances from January 2009 at Orchestral Hall (Symphony Center)m, Chicago.

The discs set forth the first recording of the CSO under the direction of its new director Riccardo Muti. They offer a vivid interpretation of this familiar work which captures the dynamic character of the concerts while also providing excellent sonics. A welcome addition to the discography of this venerable work, the CSO recording is notable for the bringing out of details of execution that set it apart from others.

The famous opening section of the Dies Irae is full of dynamic contrast, from the thunderous percussion and brass playing to almost whispered choral sounds. Such extroverted gestures stand in contrast to the sometimes chamber-like solicitous treatment of the opening. In rendering such varied emotions, Muti arrives at an interpretation that never treats the music passively. In bringing this performance together he confers his sense of the wholeness of the piece on the entire ensemble, orchestra, chorus and soloists.

As to the soloists, they equally strong in their abilities, with their distinctive timbres used well. Barbara Frittoli soars when appropriate, and at the same time works well with Borodina in the “Recordare” duet. In the same way, Mario Zeffiri brings out the pathos of the “Ingemisco” section, with vibrato coloring passages purposefully. In the trio “Quid sum miser” he blends well with Frittoli and Borodina. The bass Ildar Abdrazakov is equally suited to his part, with a dark timbre that is particularly effective in the “Confutatis” section of the Dies Irae. The four soloists work together in ensemble in the “Domine Jesu Christ” passage to bring the Dies Irae to its conclusion. The duet between Frittoli and Borodina in the Agnus Dei is particularly touching, with Borodina’s rich sound emerging well.

Through the recording, the CSO offers a warm, opulence that supports the voices, as in the opening of the Offertorio and the Lux aeterna. At the same time the CSO Chorus is impressive for its focus, unified diction and solid intonation. The combined voices seem effortless. These aspects are essential to the recording which is immediate and natural. In many ways the forces involved encapsulate the style and meaning of the entire piece in the final section, Libera me. It is among the finest passages of the recording. Frittoli gives a sense of urgency throughout much of the section, a sense that resolves at the conclusion. Along the way, the choral and orchestral timbres support and delineate her text, as Verdi brings the Requiem to a conclusion. The reprise of the Dies Irae brings a spirit of unity again, with an edge to which Frittoli responds. This interaction contributes to making this reading continually appealing.

Such appeal is apparent because of the power of the performances. This interpretation has a sense of relevance arising from the manifest engagement of all concerned. Within the continuous tradition of performance, this recording, with its fine sound, excellent interpretation and abundantly apt musicianship, demonstrates the appeal that Verdi’s Requiem continues to retain.

This is issued as a two-disc set with a generous booklet that contains the full text and translation, as well as an interview with Muti and performer details. Those familiar with the CSO may wish to add it to their own collections, and those who prefer downloads will find that the CSO makes those available, too.

Insightful interpretation and the intensity of a live performance enhance the strength of this outstanding recording.

James L Zychowicz

Insightful interpretation and the intensity of a live performance enhance the strength of this outstanding recording.


See also review by John Quinn

Full Track-List
Disc 1: 48:08
1. Requiem and Kyrie 9:52
2. Dies irae 2:26
3. Tuba mirum 1:58
4. Mors stupebit 1:23
5. Liber scriptus 5:08
6. Quid sum miser 3:54
7. Rex tremendae 3:52
8. Recordare 4:21
9. Ingemisco 3:37
10. Confutatis 5:27
11. Lacrimosa 6:29
Disc 2: 41:20
1 Offertorio 10:47
2 Sanctus 2:35
3 Agnus Dei 5:43
4 Lux aeterna 7:00
5 Libera me 15:06