BR KLASSIK’s Verdi Requiem: An altogether remarkable accomplishment.

Verdi’ Requiem, a masterpiece dedicated to the Italian writer Alessandro Manzoni takes the text of the Mass for the Dead and turns it by way of its music into a journey that grapples with the mysteries of life and death, voyaging through the darkness of its Kyrie and Dies Irae, then finding temporary relief from life’s vicissitudes in the Quid sum miser trio and the Recordare duet for soprano and mezzo-soprano, then bluntly interrupted by the thundering bass aria Confutatis Maledictus, and intensely weeping for life’s misery and begging for peace in the central Lachrymosa.  

The Requiem has been called a Sacred Opera because of its setting of a text that deals with matters of Faith and Life and Death – perfect for the genius of a man who grappled in one way or another with these very subjects in each and every one of his three dozen operas as well as in his personal life.

Jessye Norman, Agnes Baltsa, José Carreras, and Yevgeny Nesterenko are four among the great singers of our time.  The Bavarian Radio Chorus and Symphony Orchestra are two top-notch German ensembles. At the age of 80 Riccardo Muti remains one of the finest conductors in the world. Given these artistic elements it is not surprising that a reissued recording of the Manzoni Requiem should be cause for celebration.

With Norman and Nesterenko both gone, and with Baltsa and Carreras both now retired it is fortunate that a 1981 Munich performance of Giuseppe Verdi’s Messa da Requiem has been lovingly recorded and preserved for posterity by BR KLASSIK.

The re-mastered sound remains as fresh as it was when new almost forty years ago. The singing from all four soloists is to be treasured.

Norman’s dramatic soprano is a variable source of fiery excitement and plangent lyricism. Baltsa’s gorgeous sound – essentially that of a lyric mezzo-soprano can match her colleagues’ decibel for decibel, and Carreras, for this listener, ranks as one of the finest lyric tenors of the century. Yevgeny Nesterenko’s Slavic-accented Latin is not one’s cup of vodka, but his sound is noble and he rises to a lofty Confutatis early in the recording, with plenty of fire and brimstone reserves.

The music ultimately leads to the ecstatically quiet contemplation of Lux aeterna, but Verdi does not give his composition a placid ending, for it is the lone voice of the soprano who utters a final plea in the unaccompanied Deliver me, Lord, from eternal death.

Muti draws out fearsome fortissimi and touching pianissimi from his chorus and orchestra, and all along elicits impeccable ensemble work from his star soloists.

An altogether remarkable accomplishment.

Rafael de Acha        ALL ABOUT THE ARTS