LABELS: EMI Eminence
PERFORMER: Elizabeth Connell (soprano), Ameral Gunson (mezzo-soprano), Edmund Barham (tenor), John Tomlinson (bass); Brighton Festival Chorus, Royal Choral Society, RPO/Owain Arwel Hughes
CATALOGUE NO: CDEMX 2503 DDD
The highly dramatic style of Verdi’s Requiem does not conceal the fact that the work is an expression of deep feeling. The most successful performances are those which accept that its musical language is closer to the opera house than to the church. Owain Arwel Hughes’s interpretation is not lacking in drama, but his performance does smack somewhat of the English choral tradition. His soloists are more than competent singers, but the mezzo’s vibrato is rather wide, and the soprano seems to have been caught on a poor day.
Hughes is outclassed in style and attack by Barenboim and his American chorus and orchestra. Barenboim’s tempi are marginally faster, more urgent, his chorus flits more lightly through the Sanctus than Hughes’s, and there is no denying that his soloists have the more glamorous voices. Alessandra Marc produces a true Verdian sound, and in the ‘Libera me’ a more successful soft high B flat than Elizabeth Connell, while Ferruccio Furlanetto’s tone is much firmer than John Tomlinson’s. And Plácido Domingo is vocally and stylistically superior to his rival, Edmund Barham. Hughes’s is a perfectly decent account of the Requiem, but Barenboim’s is the more exciting. My first choice, however, would be neither of these, but Giulini on EMI. Charles Osborne