PERFORMER: Angela Gheorghiu (soprano), Daniela Barcellona (mezzo-soprano), Roberto Alagna (tenor), Julian Konstantinov (bass); Swedish Radio Chorus, Eric Ericson Chamber Choir, Orféon Donostiarra, Berlin PO/Claudio Abbado
CATALOGUE NO: CDC 5 57168 2
Recorded live during performances in the Philharmonie, Berlin, the second of which coincided with the actual centenary of Verdi’s death, this account finds the Berlin Philharmonic on unbeatable form, with superb tone in all departments and the orchestral detail beautifully realised. Claudio Abbado shows a scrupulous regard for the composer’s markings, and delivers a performance less sheerly theatrical and arguably more heartfelt than most. His ‘Dies irae’, for instance, avoids the fiery whirlwind approach in favour of something more measured but equally involving.
As with all live recordings, there are moments of untidiness – the soloists not invariably synchronised in their chording, the odd note slightly out of tune. Angela Gheorghiu nevertheless establishes herself as one of the most complete soprano soloists ever to record the Requiem. She simply cannot be faulted. Apart from a tendency (common among tenors) to beef up Verdi’s piano markings to mezzo-forte, neither can Roberto Alagna, and the purposive and velvet-toned singing of mezzo Daniela Barcellona is within their league. Decent as the bass is, his tone sometimes loosens under pressure. Precise choral work, though the tone is a shade thin. The sound lacks brightness and separation, with the texturally richer passages somewhat fuzzy. The recent Gergiev studio version, in some ways more brilliant, is fatally compromised by its tenor participant. Abbado’s reading is loving and idiomatic, though not the equal of classic interpretations by Giulini, Muti and (despite the sound) Toscanini. George Hall