LABELS: Decca Legends
WORKS: Requiem; Quattro pezzi sacri
PERFORMER: Leontyne Price (soprano), Rosalind Elias, Yvonne Minton (mezzo-soprano), Jussi Björling (tenor), Giorgio Tozzi (bass); Vienna Singverein, Los Angeles Master Chorale, Vienna PO/Fritz Reiner, Los Angeles PO/Zubin Mehta
CATALOGUE NO: 467 119-2 Reissue (1960, 1970)
Leontyne Price in her early thirties, and Jussi Björling shortly before his death at 49: these are the two outstanding reasons for acquiring this reissue. Both singers close-focus on the vulnerability of the human condition within the monumental scale of Fritz Reiner’s reading and Björling’s ‘Ingemisco’, rock-solid of contour, yet with a core of anguished supplication, is one of the real wonders of this performance.
Reiner’s slow tempi will not be to everyone’s taste: they unsettle the male choral entry at ‘Te decet hymnus’, and sometimes seem to hold back the singers against their better instincts. Concerted numbers such as the ‘Lacrymosa’ and ‘Offertorio’ are rhythmically steady to a fault; choral and orchestral rhythms are robust and rigorous in the ‘Dies irae’ and ‘Sanctus’.
It’s the natural, instinctive breathing of Mehta’s direction of the Four Sacred Pieces, with Yvonne Minton’s golden trumpet-flare of hope in the Te Deum, which makes these bonus performances so special. Hilary Finch