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Verdi: Messa Da Requiem / Fantini, Smirnova, Meli, Siwek, Maazel

Verdi / Fantini / Smirnova / Meli / Siwek
Release Date: 04/28/2009 
Label:  Euroarts   Catalog #: 2072438  
Composer:  Giuseppe Verdi
Performer:  Francesco MeliAnna SmirnovaNorma FantiniRafal Siwek
Conductor:  Lorin Maazel
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Florence Maggio Musicale ChorusSymphonica Toscanini
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Also available on Blu-ray

Giuseppe Verdi

Norma Fantini, soprano
Anna Smirnova, mezzo-soprano
Francesco Meli, tenor
Rafa? Siwek, bass

Fiorentino Maggio Musicale Chorus
Symphonica Toscanini
Lorin Maazel, conductor

Recorded at the Basilica di San Marco, Venice, 16 Nov 2007

Picture format: NTSC 16:9
Sound format: PCM Stereo / Digital Dolby 5.1 / DTS 5.1
Region code: 0 (worldwide)
Subtitles: Latin, English, German, French, Spanish
Booklet notes: English, German, French
Running time: 96 mins
No. of DVDs: 1 (DVD

R E V I E W:


VERDI Messa da Requiem Lorin Maazel, cond; Norma Fantini (sop); Anna Smirnova (mez); Francesco Meli (ten); Rafel Siwek (bs); Coro Maggio Musicale Fiorentino; Symphonica Toscanini MEDICI ARTS 2072438 (DVD:137:00) Live: Venice 2007

This performance was one of two given by Lorin Maazel to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the death of Arturo Toscanini in 1957. The insert notes for this release quote Maazel’s recollection of when, as an 11-year-old in 1941, he led the NBC Symphony Orchestra. Many years later, I had the opportunity to ask Maazel how he felt at the time when put in charge of a world-class orchestra created especially for a celebrated conductor: “It wasn’t a problem,” he said. “I was simply a professional doing my job.” And the insert notes for this release offer Maazel’s recounting how Toscanini “was kind enough to come to my dressing room, take me in his arms, kiss me on my forehead and say, ‘God bless you.’” Certainly in Maazel’s earlier work in Cleveland there were suggestions of a Toscanini influence, suggestions that were subsequently blanketed with mannerisms that crept into his later years in New York with the Philharmonic. In this video release, however, those mannerism are not present in what is a generally fine account of Verdi’s masterpiece. The orchestra is first-rate, and the overall pacing generally well judged. And the glimpse one gets of Maazel makes clear he is not conducting for the camera or the audience, his gestures never extreme, his indications clear, with eyes sharply focused on the performers. The four soloists are uniformly impressive, especially Norma Fantini. Watching her suggests her complete emotional involvement in the music, her changing facial expressions underscoring why this work has sometimes been tagged Verdi’s “greatest opera.”

The major issue in a release of this sort is always a question of how the picture complements or distracts from the music at hand. To be sure, it is free of the overly active, widely roving camerawork that infects some video productions. Moreover some of the images that depart from the musicians and reveal the stunning beauty of the San Marco Basilica are certainly welcome, as are the close-ups of the four soloists. But many moments also exist where one may wish for less visual activity and a more static image of the larger picture. The sound is closely miked for the soloists, in part, I suspect, to mask the hanging resonance of the hall, which becomes apparent in choral sections. Heard over wide-range equipment, it is (occasional imbalances aside) first-rate. In short, for those seeking a video of Verdi’s stupendous score, this release is well worth having. It is prefaced by a four-minute travelogue of Venice set against music from the Requiem ’s Sanctus.

FANFARE: Mortimer H. Frank
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Works on This Recording

Requiem Mass by Giuseppe Verdi
Performer:  Francesco Meli (Tenor), Anna Smirnova (Mezzo Soprano), Norma Fantini (Soprano),
Rafal Siwek (Bass)
Conductor:  Lorin Maazel
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Florence Maggio Musicale Chorus,  Symphonica Toscanini
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1874; Italy 
Date of Recording: 11/16/2007 
Venue:  Basilica di San Marco, Venice 

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