PERFORMER: Giovanna Casolla, Lando Bartolini, Masako Deguchi; Escolanía Santa Maria de la Victoria, Bilbao Choral Society, Malaga PO/Alexander Rahbari
CATALOGUE NO: 8.660089-90
Recorded at the Teatro Municipal in Madrid, this excellent new CD has all the advantages of a live recording and none of the problems. Alexander Rahbari inspires outstanding playing from the Malaga Philharmonic: a pacy, rapturous, richly coloured account. Every layer is discernible, the brass are thrillingly atmospheric and the xylophone is ringing and distinct. His approach to with rubato may trouble purists, but the effect is compelling. As is the impressive supporting cast, not least Armando Ariostini’s beautifully considered Ping, Vicenç Esteve’s honeyed Pong and Masako Deguchi’s mellifluous Liù.
What it lacks, at least in the light of the competition, is a high-octane star. Giovanna Casolla, who sang Turandot in Beijing’s Forbidden City in 1998, is a forceful presence, but has neither Callas’s authority and passionate attack (EMI) nor Sutherland’s tonal beauty (Decca). She’s inclined to overdo the vibrato, too, which threatens to destabilise her line, and her sustained top notes occasionally border on stridency. Hers is a powerful characterisation, but not a complex one, and there’s none of the humanising sense of despair that was Sutherland’s great strength. Lando Bartolini’s Calaf is more obviously attractive – commanding, heroic, ardent – even if he’s not in the same league as Pavarotti (Decca) or Domingo (DG). But Turandot is more than a two-hander, and as the work of an ensemble, this is a creditable addition to the catalogue. Claire Wrathall