Verdi: Messa da Requiem

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Verdi
LABELS: C Major
ALBUM TITLE: Verdi: Messa da Requiem
WORKS: Messa da Requiem
PERFORMER: Julianna Di Giacomo (soprano); Michelle DeYoung (mezzo-soprano); Vittorio Grigolo (tenor), Ildebrando D’Arcangelo (bass); Los Angeles Philharmonic/Gustavo Dudamel
CATALOGUE NO: 714708 (DVD); 714804 (blu-ray)

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Recorded at the Hollywood Bowl over two nights in August 2013, Dudamel’s Verdi Requiem is founded on the playing of the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the singing of the Los Angeles Master Chorale – both of them substantial assets. The choir, in particular, produces beautifully managed soft singing, while their fine-grained tone is flawlessly controlled throughout.

The orchestra is also technically impressive, though Dudamel, who has been the LA Phil’s music director since 2009, finds surprisingly little character in Verdi’s colourful and often thrilling orchestral writing; in places the result is bland. He’s more successful with the choral writing, which he moulds sensitively with his hands, using on this occasion neither baton nor score.

The performance is at its best in the contributions of the four soloists. US soprano Julianna Di Giacomo brings vibrant tone and plenty of personal commitment to the top line, shining especially brightly in the Libera Me. Her mezzo colleague Michelle DeYoung supplies consistently grand and convincingly Italianate vocalism. If there’s more physical theatricality in Vittorio Grigolo’s interpretation than needed, and his singing registers are on the small side, he has enough vocal style to make his performance worthwhile. Best of all is Ildebrando D’Arcangelo, whose firmness and authority make him a formidable exponent of the bass part.

Picture quality is so-so on the DVD, though a good deal sharper on Blu-ray, but sound is not especially clear on either. As a bonus, Dudamel talks about the work and his approach, though in truth he hasn’t much of interest to say about either.

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George Hall