Verdi: Requiem; Four Sacred Pieces

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Verdi
LABELS: Philips
WORKS: Requiem; Four Sacred Pieces
PERFORMER: Luba Orgonasova, Donna Brown (soprano), Anne Sofie von Otter (mezzo-soprano), Luca Canonici (tenor), Alastair Miles (bass); Monteverdi Choir, Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique/John Eliot Gardiner
CATALOGUE NO: 442 142-2 DDD
For this recording which uses period instruments (but fortunately not period singers), John Eliot Gardiner has elected to play down the more theatrical aspects of the magnificent Requiem which is sometimes referred to as ‘Verdi’s greatest opera’. It is, of course, difficult to reduce the dramatic impact of the ‘Dies irae’, or to disguise the operatic style of much of the soloists’ music, and many listeners to this performance may fail to notice that the conductor has made any such attempt. The players of the Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique use wind instruments that were ‘state of the art’ at the time of the Requiem’s composition but which have since been improved upon by modern instrument makers. Again, one might not notice a great difference.

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Though the tenor sounds rather bland in ‘Ingemisco tamquam reus’ and the bass lacks urgency in ‘Confutatis maledictis’, all four soloists are elsewhere highly effective and well-matched. Space is found on the second disc for the choral works which have come to be known as the Four Sacred Pieces and performed together, although they were not intended by Verdi to form parts of a whole. They are well sung and played, especially the curiously haunting Ave Maria. Charles Osborne