ALBUM TITLE: Verdi
PERFORMER: Gheorghiu, Barcellona, Alagna, Konstantinov; Swedish Radio Chorus, Eric Ericson Chamber Choir, Orfeon Donostiarra, Berlin PO/Claudio Abbado
CATALOGUE NO: DVB 4 92693 9
Recorded live at the Berlin Philharmonic in January 2001 at performances marking the centenary of Verdi’s death, this release is also available as an audio CD (reviewed in January). But the DVD version clearly demonstrates Abbado’s weak physical disposition at the time, prior to his major stomach operation later in the year. Gaunt through weight loss, he nevertheless remains surprisingly sprightly within his economical gesture, marshalling the huge forces with intensity. The massed choirs immediately impress with their sensitivity in the opening, motet-like ‘Requiem aeternam’ and with ample power in the ‘Dies irae’ and ‘Tuba mirum’. From the cast of soloists, Daniela Barcellona, somewhat dwarfing Gheorghiu and Alagna either side, emerges formidable for her dramatic intensity; vocally all the soloists give impressive performances, though, for me, Alagna occasionally overplays the operatic pomp.
Sound quality is very good -clearly a priority, judging by the web of microphones covering the stage — though upper brass are occasionally uncomfortably over-present. There is certainly a poignancy to witnessing Abbado’s meagre frame presiding over this mighty Requiem, which Abbado himself seems to acknowledge by the performance’s end, when it appears his exertions have been as much emotional as physical. Edward Bhesania