ALBUM TITLE: Verdi
PERFORMER: Anja Harteros (soprano), Daniela Barcellona (mezzo), Wookyung Kim (tenor), Georg Zeppenfeld (bass); Munich Choir & Philharmonic/Lorin Maazel
CATALOGUE NO: 88875083302
This is a live recording, from four performances of Verdi’s greatest work, given in the Gasteig in Munich in February last year. I wonder whether it was originally intended that a recording should emerge from them. It is not a work that Lorin Maazel ever recorded, and he has died in the meanwhile, so perhaps it is a homage to a man who was undoubtedly an extraordinary musician and conductor, but one whom it proved difficult to love. I have never met anyone who has Maazel among their favourite conductors, and I don’t think this release will change that situation. To begin with, there are acute problems of balance. The soloists and chorus are recorded so much more forwardly than the orchestra that they often sound as if they are singing a cappella. That is especially true of the strings, whose helter-skelter descents during the Dies irae are less terrifying than on any other recording I have heard.
Maazel plays the beginning of the work almost inaudibly, and far too slowly, a fairly modern vice which warns that one is in for a performance of extremes. But they are written into the work: for Verdi pp only meant not too loud. He wrote pppppp when he wanted things really soft. There are passages of lethargy, which don’t help the soloists, a noble team but not always seeming comfortable; and the tenor Wookyung Kim takes some time to get into his stride. Though there are stretches that moved me, on the whole I found it an unimpressive, mannered affair. Michael Tanner