Muti gets personal with Verdi
Riccardo Muti leads the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and soloists on a bold performance of Verdi's Messa da Requiem
Repertoire: Messa da Requiem
Artists: Soloists, Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus/Riccardo Muti
Label: CSO Resound CSOR 901 1008
The Music Verdi’s Requiem, initially part of a multi-composer piece crafted in memory of Rossini, emerged in 1874 as a work of national mourning for Italian poet and statesman Alessandro Manzoni. Some still insist that it is ‘operatic’, a judgement loaded with historical baggage about sacred art. The work’s real power, though, comes from Verdi’s vivid reaction to human mortality and fear of death.
The Performance Like Riccardo Muti’s previous recordings of the work, this interpretation is typically bold and personal. It’s also strikingly idiosyncratic in tempo and articulation. Listen, for example, to the Offertorio, in which Muti changes gear more times than Lewis Hamilton at Monaco. His active intervention enlivens the unremarkable solo quartet’s ‘Quam olim Abrahae’ but falls into caricature earlier in the movement. The conductor’s elaborate reading, underpinned by first-rate orchestral playing, harbours as many devils in its fine detail as virtues.
The Verdict In his attempt to make every note of this music ‘sing’, Muti often impedes the free flow of Verdi’s melodies. But his account, as unpredictable as life itself, provokes thought and is worth hearing.
Want more? Antonio Pappano’s Requiem recording for EMI Classics (698 9362) beats Muti for drama while elevating the work’s spiritual substance, its shattering silences and moments of rest, above mundane theatrical display.