PERFORMER: Bryn Terfel, Thomas Hampson, Daniil Shtoda, Adrianne Pieczonka, Dorothea Röschmann, Larissa Diadkova; Berlin Radio Chorus, Berlin PO/Claudio Abbado
CATALOGUE NO: 471 194-2
Prime place in any discussion of this new version of Verdi’s comic masterpiece must go to Bryn Terfel’s performance of the title role. There have been some singers who have interpreted the role marvellously with second-rate voices, and some with finer voices less detailed in their approach. Terfel has it all: a great instrument capable of an infinite variety of tone colour, and a reading that uses words vividly and observes the minutest markings of Verdi’s score. He is the equal of any Falstaff on disc.
With Abbado, too, the full amplitude of brilliant effects and quicksilver changes of mood in the score is revealed – the music simply sounds as if it’s in his blood. Excellent playing, not surprisingly, from the Berlin Philharmonic. As Ford, Thomas Hampson does everything that keen intelligence and finest musicianship can, but his is not quite the true Verdi baritone sound. Daniil Shtoda’s Fenton lacks sweetness, but Dorothea Röschmann’s Nannetta combines purity nicely with personality.
Adrianne Pieczonka’s Alice is light, lyrical and graceful, while Larissa Diadkova’s Quickly has the requisite depth of tone and a sense of humour, and she’s a good deal more idiomatic than Anatoli Kotscherga’s heavy-handed Pistol. But Enrico Facini shows plenty of venomous vitality as Dr Caius and Anthony Mee’s Bardolph is excellent.
Classic performances exist by Toscanini (though in dubious sound) and Karajan (despite a lack of warmth), but the conductor and protagonist here are as good as can be found in any modern recording. George Hall