Charpentier, Mozart, Verdi & Pärt
The Santa Cecilia Orchestra has had a huge programme of responsibility for Holy Year. This celebratory recording of four settings of the Te Deum over five centuries was recorded in Rome at Easter, and comes with the official blessing of the Pope. The orchestral musicians, under Myung-Whun Chung, play as if their lives depended on it (and they probably do): the grace and elegance of the brass and wind in the Charpentier is particularly admirable. But this late 17th-century work sags in the middle simply because the soloists are not the strongest line-up imaginable, with a weak, whining tenor, a wavering mezzo and two thin, reedy sopranos. Ironically, the human voice is the weakest element throughout this disc. The Mozart Te Deum is neither as strongly focused in its entries, nor as immediate and forward in recording balance as one could wish. And the Verdi, with its hushed unaccompanied choral singing alternating with its mighty acclamations, is for too much of the time a blurred wash of sound. Arvo Pärt, who supervised this recording of his Te Deum, is better served, as his work moves from inchoate distance to diffident yet highly charged intensity. As a souvenir of the Giubileo this disc will doubtless sell; but superior recordings of each work already exist in the catalogue.