Verdi's Requiem is left wanting

Two new recordings of Verdi's Requiem fall far short of great in a very competitive market

Composer: Verdi 
Repertoire: Requiem
Artists: Soloists, Mikhailovsky Theatre Chorus, St Petersburg PO/Temirkanov
Rating: 3/5
Genre: Orchestral
Label: Signum Classics SIGCD 184

Composer: Verdi 
Repertoire: Requiem
Artists: Soloists, Europa ChorAkademie, Youth Orchestra of the Americas/Domingo
Rating: 2/5
Genre: Orchestral
Label: Glor Classics GCO 8011

Hard on the heels of new recordings of Verdi’s Requiem from Colin Davis and Antonio Pappano, come two more ‘live’ versions: Temirkanov’s from St Petersburg last year and Domingo’s from Munich in 2006. Temirkanov has rather lost ground since the charismatic Valery Gergiev took over from him at the Kirov (Mariinsky) Theatre; but he has been in charge of the St Petersburg Philharmonic since 1988 and the orchestra plays splendidly for him here. What particularly marks out the performance is his attention to dynamics. Verdi littered the score with injunctions to sing and play softly, from pp to ppppp: Temirkanov generally follows these, whereas Domingo is less scrupulous. Neither conductor observes the distinction in the Sanctus between the first chorus’s mf and the second chorus’s p. 

Domingo’s Sanctus also suffers from an over-prominent trumpet doubling the vocal line; a fault also noticeable earlier in the Lacrymosa. Temirkanov has a superior team of soloists. Tenor Alexander Timchenko starts well by taking Kyrie eleison in one breath. He phrases Ingemisco and Hostias elegantly, whereas Marco Berti sounds graceless in the former and strained in the latter. Carlo Colombara, the bass, finds a proper sense of awe at Mors stupebit; Ildar Abdrazákov is more matter-of-fact. The mezzos are fine; of the sopranos, Cristina Gallardo-Domâs wobbles in places and puzzlingly sings the penultimate phrase of the Agnus Dei in unison with Fredrike Brillembourg. As far as the choirs and orchestras are concerned, the honours are even. Both conductors have eccentricities: Temirkanov is the better bet, but the competition is stiff.