WORKS: Messa di Gloria in E flat; Tantum ergo in G & in F; Qui tollis in F,
PERFORMER: Elisabetta Scano, Cristina Gallardo-Domas (soprano), Sonia Prina (mezzo-soprano), Juan Diego Flórez, Kenneth Tarver (tenor), Eldar Aliev (bass); Giuseppe Verdi SO Milan/Riccardo Chailly
CATALOGUE NO: 467 280-2
A wonderful contribution to Verdi year, this: eight world-premiere recordings of sacred music by Verdi, including a group of early pieces recently rediscovered and reconstructed by Professor Dino Rizzi (the booklet tells you how). These include a Messa di Gloria written when Verdi was 22: an early harvesting of the fruits of his studies in Busseto and Milan. The youthful Italian and Spanish soloists who perform with Riccardo Chailly’s young Milanese orchestra are perfectly cast for Verdi’s fresh, fervent and still slightly diffident melodic writing, burgeoning from the echoes of Rossini and sweet with the scent of Mozartian woodwind writing.
Two settings of the ‘Tantum ergo’, one for tenor and one for bass, shamelessly take more delight in the voice than in the meaning of the text; a tenor ‘Qui tollis’, with nimble clarinet obbligato, wrinkles its brow over the setting of the word ‘deprecationem’; and a honeyed trio of a ‘Laudate pueri’ for two tenors and bass is bowed in by a playful, hide-and-seeking Rossinian flute.
Best of all, though, are three late works: a trial run ‘Libera me’, originally for a collaborative Requiem for Rossini; and a revelatory pairing of an a cappella ‘Padre nostro’ – a fine-boned tribute to Palestrina dramatised by Verdi’s own distinctive mature harmonic language – with an ‘Ave Maria’ for soprano and strings, its dissonances stretching deeper even than Desdemona’s own heart of darkness. Hilary Finch