WORKS: Four Sacred Pieces; Libera me (from Messa per Rossini); Ave Maria (1880); Ave Maria (from Otello)
PERFORMER: Carmela Remigio (soprano); Academy of Santa Cecilia Chorus & Orchestra/Myung-Whun Chung
CATALOGUE NO: 469 075-2
Following hard on the heels of Riccardo Chailly’s revelatory world premiere recording of early and late sacred music by Verdi (see review last month), Myung-Whun Chung and his Rome forces offer a further recorded performance of the great 1880 Ave Maria for soprano and orchestra. Here, it’s juxtaposed not with the Padre nostro, as Verdi originally intended, but with Desdemona’s ‘Ave Maria’ from Otello.
Chung focuses less than Chailly on the bass strings as they tug in dissonance with the haloed violins: his is a more consoling, less harrowing invocation, with the soprano of Carmela Remigio darker of vowels and less vulnerable of tone. A velvet stole is wrapped around the chill isolation of Desdemona, too, with voice and orchestra singing together in a warm euphony of texture and colour.
This disc, like Chailly’s, also offers the early, preparatory ‘Libera me’ which Verdi wrote for the collaborative Rossini Requiem in 1868. But the Pezzi sacri dominate: those late, austere masterpieces of history’s most devout agnostic. Here Chung’s own sense of awe and deep affection for the score is palpable: these are performances very much in the tradition of his great hero, Carlo Maria Giulini. Their broad pacing and hushed textures need only more intense, less generalised verbal focus to recreate that authentic Verdian ardour to which Chung so sensitively responds. Hilary Finch