Verdi: Nabucco – Overture; ‘Gli arredi festivi’; Macbeth – ‘Patria Oppressa!’; I Vespri Siciliani – Overture; Puccini: Manon Lescaut – Intermezzo; Mascagni: Cavalleria Rusticana – Intermezzo
Riccardo Zanellato (bass), Chicago Children’s Choir; Chicago Symphony Chorus & Orchestra/Riccardo Muti
CSO Resound CSOR 901 1801 67:13 mins
These recordings were taken live from the closing concerts of the Chicago Symphony’s 2016-17 season, which partly accounts for the motley selection of repertoire. The music-making itself, though, is very distinguished. Copper-toned brass and crisp, snappy string articulation make the overture to Nabucco levitate, and there is plenty of slancio when the big tune opens up with scatter-gun percussion.
The 150-strong Chicago Symphony Chorus makes fervent, sharply profiled contributions in Nabucco’s ‘Gli arredi festivi’ and the baleful ‘Patria oppressa’ from Macbeth. The chorus impresses again in the Prologue to Boito’s Mefistofele, where Riccardo Zanellato is the solidly characterful soloist, and Riccardo Muti sculpts an at times brilliantly piquant accompaniment. The Overture to I Vespri Siciliani, and Intermezzi from Puccini’s Manon Lescaut and Mascagni’s Cavalleria Rusticana further spotlight the blue riband playing of the Chicago Symphony, whose combination of lithe expressivity and tonal generosity dovetails pleasingly with Muti’s scrupulous attention to dynamics. Muti is a subtler, more emotionally nuanced conductor of Italian opera than many of his rivals, and this recording is a pleasurable way to sample his approach in bite-sized fashion. There is virtually no audience noise, and applause is omitted.