Great Verdi Voices

Mnchner Rundfunkorchester
rec. 1962-84, Kongressaal des Deutschen Museums, Munich (except Varady, Auger, Atlantow: Bayerische Rundfunk Studio 1; Taddei: Grosses Festspielhaus, Salzburg)
BR KLASSIK 900313 [73:51]

This disc makes a lovely companion piece to BR Klassik’s Great Wagner Voices disc. It presents a series of recordings from the Bavarian Radio archives, and if they’re not all masterful performances then they’re all interesting and most are great fun.

The most intriguing ones are those with which you can easily compare a more famous studio recording. Leontyne Price, for example, sounds richer and more fulsome on her RCA recording of Ernani for Schippers, but there’s an appealing rawness to her Kongressaal recording that seems to revel in just how easy she finds the whole thing. Remarkable. Likewise, Jose Carreras sounds more unbuttoned in this excerpt from Il Corsaro, and Cappuccilli wears his heart much more obviously on his sleeve than he does for his studio Rigoletto for Giulini. Renato Bruson sounds magnificent as Germont, with more room for the sound to breathe than Muti allowed him in the studio, and an unfeasibly honeyed tone that really glows on this recording.

Conversely, Franco Bonisolli will win as few sensitivity prizes for this recording of Manrico – he over-eggs appallingly at both climaxes – as he won for Karajan’s studio recording, though no one ever went to that tenor for subtle insights. Bergonzi, on the other hand, has a beautifully lived-in voice that is every bit the equal of his DG recording for Serafin and, at the climax, sounds perhaps even more impassioned. Taddei’s Falstaff is more spontaneous than his studio recording for Karajan, and if Nicolai Gedda’s Duke is a little raw then it still makes an interesting contrast to his recording for Molinari-Pradelli on EMI. I haven’t heard Anneliese Rothenberger’s studio Traviata, but her Violetta sounds fantastic here, growing in reckless abandon as the aria progresses.

Then there are the might-have-beens: the tracks that make you wonder what a full recording might have sounded like. Neil Schicoff was never a natural Ernani, and would certainly never challenge Bergonzi or Pavarotti in that role, but 1978 was the peak of his career and it’s interesting to hear his voice in the closest to peak form that he would achieve in this fach. Margaret Price’s gloriously rounded Aida leaves you longing for more, as does Julia Varady’s sensational Lady Macbeth, and Arleen Auger’s Oscar left me wondering what might have been. Sena Jurinac’s Don Carlo scene stands as a curiosity next to her superior (roughly contemporary) Salzburg account for Karajan, and Wladimir Atlantov suggests that he was more than just the foghorn that he was sometimes caricatured as.

Simon Thompson

Previous review: Michael Cookson

Surta la notte ... Ernani! Ernani, involami (from Ernani) [5:58]
Leontyne Price (soprano, 1968)
Merc, diletti amici (from Ernani) [6:02]
Neil Shicoff (tenor, 1978)
La luce langue (from Macbeth) [4:15]
Julia Varady (soprano, 1979)
Tutto parea sorridere (from Il Corsaro) [4:28]
Jose Carreras (tenor, 1982)
Cortigiani, vil razza dannata (from Rigoletto) [4:25]
Piero Cappuccilli (baritone, 1970)
La donna mobile (from Rigoletto) [2:02]
Nicolai Gedda (tenor, 1968)
Ah s ben mio (from Il trovatore) [3:41]
Carlo Bergonzi (tenor, 1970)
Di quella pira (from Il trovatore) [3:42]
Franco Bonisolli (tenor, 1973)
strano! strano! ... Ah! fors lui (from La traviata) [6:37]
Anneliese Rothenberger (soprano, 1963)
Di Provenza il mar (from La Traviata) [4:28]
Renato Bruson (baritone, 1984)
Saper vorreste (from Un Ballo in Maschera) [1:57]
Arleen Auger (soprano, 1979)
Tu che le vanit (from Don Carlo) [9:59]
Sena Jurinac (soprano, 1962)
Ritorna vincitor! (from Aida) [9:59]
Margaret Price (soprano, 1981)
Niun mi tema (from Otello) [5:14]
Wladimir Atlantow (tenor, 1980)
Ehi! Paggio! ... L'onore! Ladri! (from Falstaff) [4:06]
Giuseppe Taddei (baritone, 1968)

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