Verdi: Requiem; Quattro pezzi sacri

Georg Solti / Wiener Philharmoniker

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Verdi: Requiem; Quattro pezzi sacri Review

by James Leonard

Well, that was loud, dramatic, intense, and emotional, or was it deafening, histrionic, and sentimental? It all depends on how you like your Verdi Requiems. In this 1967 recording, Georg Solti leads the Wiener Philharmoniker and Staatsopernchor plus an all-star cast of soloists in a performance that takes the volume of the Reiner recording, the drama of the Giulini recording, the intensity of the Toscanini recording, and the emotionality of the Serafin recording and turns every dial all the way into the red. And although there's no debating the quality of the individual performers -- how could one beat a team of soloists consisting of soprano Joan Sutherland, mezzo-soprano Marilyn Horne, tenor Luciano Pavarotti, and bass Martti Talvela, much less an orchestra and chorus like Vienna's? -- there is room to debate the quantity of the performance. Should the Dies Irae really have an attack like a Panzer division? Should the Rex tremendae really have the spectacle of the Circus maximus? Should the Lacrimosa really have the force of a punch by Cassius Clay? And should the closing Libra me really have the emotive power of Joan Crawford? While the Solti performance may be the ultimate in Verdi Requiems for some listeners, for others, it will simply be too much, particularly as captured in Decca's bludgeoning stereo sound. On the other hand, the inclusion of Margaret Hillis and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra & Chorus' lovingly sung, beautifully balanced, and passionately dedicated performances of Verdi's Quattro pezzi sacri will be balm to anyone who loves Verdi at his most restrained and least bombastic.

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