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Giuseppe VERDI (1813-1901)
Messa da Requiem (1874) [98:00]
Juliana DiGiacomo (soprano); Michelle DeYoung (mezzo-soprano); Vittorio Grigolo (tenor); Ildebrando D’Arcangelo (bass)
Los Angeles Master Chorale; Los Angeles Philharmonic/Gustavo Dudamel
rec. live 13 and 15 August 2013, Hollywood Bowl, Los Angeles, USA
Bonus feature: Behind the Scenes Interview and Rehearsal with Gustavo Dudamel [18:00]
Video Director: Michael Beyer
Subtitles: Latin, German, English, French, Spanish, Korean, Chinese, Japanese
Sound format: PCM Stereo, DTS-HD MA 5.1; Picture format: 1080i, 16:9
C MAJOR 714804 Blu-ray [116:00]

This appears to be the same recording as that issued in 2014. The DVD was reviewed here by John Quinn and the Blu-ray by Dave Billinge. I refer the reader to their reviews for more detailed information on the audio and video aspects of the recording. Both expressed reservations about the performance, many of which I share with them. Dudamel’s is a good account that does not sound quite settled to me. Parts of it are very good, indeed. For example, the orchestra and chorus leave little to be desired in their technical excellence, whereas the vocal soloists are more of a mixed bag. Dudamel’s tempos are on the slow side, but it is not speed per se that results in an impression of sluggishness. Right from the beginning there is a notable lack of tension, but then the Dies irae comes bursting in with all the power one could ask, and the choir and orchestra seem fully engaged. A highlight is watching the percussionist whack the bass drum here—one of the more memorable moments in the video presentation.

Of the soloists the soprano Juliana DiGiacomo impresses most and the tenor Vittorio Grigolo least. DiGiacomo has a wonderfully pure, yet strong voice and manages the high B-flat in the Libera me as perfectly as I have heard it. She also blends well with mezzo Michelle DeYoung. When DeYoung is on her own she is certainly fine, but can become rather theatrical—at least visually. However, her theatricality is nothing compared to tenor Vittorio Grigolo’s emoting in the Ingemisco. His vocal quality is okay, but watching him one would think he momentarily stepped out of a Verdi opera. Bass Ildebrando D’Arcangelo is quite impressive with his firm, Italianate voice that lacks only something in richness.

While Dudamel generally seems to prefer broad tempos and is more comfortable with the more restrained music, he occasionally works up a head of steam. I had high hopes at the beginning of the Sanctus where the brass introduction was exciting, only for him to slow the tempo considerably when the choir enters. Likewise at the end of the Libera me fugue he exaggerates the theme by noticeably reducing the tempo. As Dave Billinge notes, Dudamel may have “a fine Verdi Requiem in him, but this is not it.” It is a pity that C Major decided to re-release this recording when they might have waited for a more seasoned account from this dynamic conductor.

This is in no way a bad performance, but with so much competition I think it should be viewed more as memento of what was undoubtedly a memorable occasion than as a library choice—particularly for those who failed to snap it up on its first release. The video aspect really does not add that much either, with the camera jumping from one shot to the next with little apparent thought. The bonus documentary gives some indication of Dudamel’s approach to the score, but not enough to really recommend watching it more than once. If I want to hear his performance again, it will be as an audio-only experience. In the meantime for Verdi’s Requiem I would recommend CDs of Muti (his first EMI recording from 1979), Giulini, or Robert Shaw with the Atlanta Symphony on Telarc. Shaw’s work as a choral conductor for Toscanini is everywhere present in his monumental and vital account recorded in resplendent sound.

Leslie Wright
Previous reviews: Dave Billinge ~ John Quinn (DVD)


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