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Giuseppe VERDI (1813–1901) Messa da Requiem
Ljiljana Molnar-Talajić (soprano), Margarita Lilova (mezzo), Luigi Ottolini (tenor), Bonaldo Giaiotti (bass)
Rundfunkchor Leipzig, Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Leipzig/Giuseppe Patanè
rec. Lukaskirche, Dresden, 25-31 October 1974, 24-28 August 1975
Sung texts and English translations enclosed BRILLIANT CLASSICS 94948 [47:29 + 40:39]
That a recording of Verdi’s Requiem takes two CDs may give a hint of what kind of reading this is. At 88+ minutes it is around ten minutes longer than a typical performance, which fits neatly onto a single CD. Heavy and ponderous, in other words? No, that’s not the overriding impression. This is a fully digestible reading that avoids clever interpretative inventions. It feels safe and has many fine moments but in the last resort it lacks the sense of a special occasion, which is what one wants from a performance of this Requiem.
The recording is good, the acoustics of the Lukaskirche excellent. We can enjoy the hushed opening and shudder at the explosive entrance of the basses. Dies irae is as punchy as could be. Tuba mirum sends the right shivers and Sanctus is excellent. Overall the choral singing is everything one could wish, and no wonder, considering that Rundfunkchor Leipzig has been one of the leading European choirs, ever since the 1950s and 1960s when Herbert Kegel started a three decade association with the choir. On the present recording it is Horst Neumann who is the chorus-master.
The soloists are an uneven quartet. The Bosnian soprano Ljiljana Molnar-Talajić is a bit squally in the Kyrie and sometimes has an irritating beat in the voice. Elsewhere she is very good, in particular in the concluding Libera me. The Bulgarian mezzo Margarita Lilova is more reliable, singing with beautiful tone and warmth. Her Lacrymosa is masterly and in Lux aeterna she demonstrates her dramatic power; Azucena and Amneris were two of her greatest roles. Of the two Italians, tenor Luigi Ottolini has an unattractive bleating tone as soon as he sings forte. He attempts some soft singing in Quid sum miser and is quite restrained in Ingemisco but his strained and ugly fortes are only painful. Bonaldo Giaiotti, on the other hand, uses his warm and sonorous bass tastefully throughout and his excellent Confutatis is the highlight of the whole recording. Patanè knows his Verdi inside out and delivers a solid reading of the score.
There is a plethora of recordings of Verdi’s Requiem and the present one is hardly competitive. It was recorded by the East-German VEB Deutsche Schallplatten and has previously been available on Berlin Classics - still available from Presto Classical. At Brilliant’s price it costs about half as much and for the choral singing and the mezzo and bass soloists it might be an attractive acquisition. However, for a superior two-disc set in roughly the same price bracket I would recommend Morandi on Naxos which also gives you Quattro pezzi sacri in a fine reading into the bargain.