Notes and Editorial Reviews
When this set was new, Andrew Porter, in one of his last assignments for this magazine, wrote a long and appreciative review, describing it as "an arresting, powerful and beautiful performance". He was writing before the appearance of the Abbado/DG version which has, ever since, put the Gavazzeni somewhat in the shadows. On rehearing it, I concur with Porter's original judgement and am not sure there is that much to choose between the two. Gavazzeni's direction is certainly not so assertive as Abbado's; he doesn't make the score quite so grand and histrionic, but, as with his near-contemporary, Serafin, Gavazzeni does much by unobtrusive means that his successors tend to make more manifest. I found his conducting here convincing throughout, both as regards pacing and inner tension - to quote AP again, he is "at once fiery and wise" and he obtains playing of character and bite from his orchestra, only a shade less impressive than the La Scala contribution to the DG set.
Cappuccilli's Boccanegra is already an imposing Simone here, long in phrase and well-detailed in characterization wanting only the extra light and shade Abbado persuaded him to bring to his singing. The improvement can be judged by listening to the great appeal to the Genovese in the Council Chamber scene, which is more refined and delicately shaded with Abbado, but in the tragic finale to the whole work Cappuccilli is here greatly moving: listen to the plangent accents at "Gran Dio, Ii benedici". Porter was disappointed by Ricciarelli, in one of her earliest recordings, but I find her Amelia still more touching than Freni's for Abbado though not so securely sung. She is the very image of the put-upon heroine, her tone gentle and appealing. She is also superbly partnered by the young Domingo's heroic Gabriele, his Second Act scena sung with taut passion and the earlier scene with Fiesco given the chivalrous declamation it should have. Fiesco himself is taken by Raimondi, too soft-grained and illdefined in articulation for my taste, no match for Abbado's Ghiaurov. Mastromei, whose career seems to have faded, here shows as Paolo just what an exciting singer he seemed back in the mid 1970s.
I wouldn't say there was that much to choose in the matters of choral contributions, atmosphere and recording. By a small margin the more recent set probably has the edge, but I would hate to be without this RCA and so make them a joint recommendation.
-- Gramophone [9/1987]
Review of RCA 70729