Verdi: Requiem; Four Sacred Pieces

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WORKS: Requiem; Four Sacred Pieces
PERFORMER: Elena Filipova (soprano), Gloria Scalchi (mezzo-soprano), César Hernández (tenor), Carlo Colombara (bass); Hungarian State Opera Choir & Orchestra/Pier Giorgio Morandi
CATALOGUE NO: 8.550944/45
Verdi’s ever-popular Requiem is surprisingly difficult to bring off on record: it needs the electricity of a live performance. Both these new versions were made under studio conditions, though in the case of EMI’s Toulouse account even this did not guarantee rock-solid ensemble. A distinguished team of soloists each performs well in the solo sections, yet fails to settle when singing together. Perhaps they were unnerved by Plasson’s unsteady rhythmic control – his speeds are fast throughout, too often at the expense of letting the music breathe. The main problem, however, is the over-resonant church acoustics; this may be a ‘religious’ work, but Verdi’s musical idiom is closer to the theatre than to the cathedral. Naxos’s rather dry recording is more suitable, and the Hungarian State Opera forces seem well up to the work’s technical demands. Morandi’s conducting is terribly matter-of-fact, though, and conveys little of the work’s grandeur and excitement. The chorus copes well with the fearsome demands of the Four Sacred Pieces. In sum, neither newcomer in any way supersedes the classic Giulini or Toscanini accounts. Stephen Maddock