Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
|Verdi - Requiem / Price Pavarotti Cossotto Ghiaurov von Karajan Teatro alla Scala|
Actors: Herbert von Karajan, Luciano Pavarotti, Leontyne Price, Fiorenza Cossotto, Nikolai Ghiaurov
Director: Henri-Georges Clouzot
Genres: Indie & Art House, Music Video & Concerts, Musicals & Performing Arts
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A Priceless Document In Classical Music History
Rudy Avila | Lennox, Ca United States | 10/04/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I support everything said by the other critic in the previous review. This 1967 filmed performance of Verdi's Requiem is a long awaited treasure of classical music. For years it was not commercially available and now thanks to modern digital technology, it's available on a fine DVD. The DVD itself is not to blame for the lack of synchronization in sound and film; it was Karajan and his people's fault since they were working with primitive camera technology. It was filmed in the Teatro A La Scala, Milan, Italy, sans an audience, providing the performance with a studio recording feel, perhaps to make the singers feel more comfortable. And what an ensemble well-endowed singers! Soprano Leontyne Price, tenor Luciano Pavarotti, mezzo-soprano Fiorenza Cossotto and bass Nikolai Ghiaurov. These singers are captured in their glorious prime and at this time their careers were taking on a meteoric rise to fame in the opera scene of the late 60's and would continue well into the 70's. The Verdi Requiem continues to be a staple of sacred music repetoire and it's a work of tremendous power. The chorus and soloists have music written to sound operatic but the traditional Requiem form is maintained- Requiem Dona Est Domine (Peace Grant them O, Lord), the Dies Irae (Day of Wrath) Rex Tremande (Tremendous Majesty) Tuba Mirum (A Trumpet Shall Sound) Libera Me (Free My Soul) etc. Verdi wrote the Requiem for his deceased friend the author Manzoni. It is his most beautiful and stirring non-operatic work, one of the last things he ever composed. It was an ambitious project and many times it resembles the grander requiems from before Verdi's time- Mozart's, Beethoven's Mass in C, Berlioz's large-scale Requiem and Brahm's German Requiem. But Verdi's signature is clearly on it.
Leontyne Price was championed by Karajan and at this time she was probably a close friend of his, having worked with him in studio recordings and Vienna Opera productions of Tosca and Il Trovatore. In '67, Price was still in great shape vocally. Her radiant high register was marked with a supersquillo quality and her lower chest voice had not yet developed that disturbing depth it would have in the 70's that plunged into the mezzo soprano/alto range (which is why she was able to sing Carmen). Her voice is beautiful and dramatic, angelic and noble, furious and vulnerable all at once. Toward the end of the Requiem, in which her voice dominates even the orchestra, Price becomes a goddess. I wonder what it was like for Price to work with Fiorenza Cossotto, rumored (by Maria Callas) to be an insufferable diva. Cossotto was the hottest item in La Scala at that time in the late 60's. While I never cared for her voice, she is doing a fine job here, and it is superior to her studio recordings under RCA with Price and Domingo (Trovatore, Forza Del Destino). Cossotto did not possess a dark enough lower voice and many times she resembles a wannabe soprano. Even Price has a darker range in this performance.
Luciano Pavarotti is VERY YOUNG here. He is not my favorite tenor but from his effulgent voice on this Requiem, a voice that can break glass with its piercing "ping" quality, we know exactly why he rose to the top. Ghiarov is also young here, and had not yet married Mirella Freni and his bass voice is dark and god-like. Karajan is also in his prime and he moves with agility and conducts with more energy than I have ever seen (except for the Carmen film with Grace Bumbry also around this time at the Salzburg Festival). Karajan has a tendency to close his eyes when he is most involved in the music. He is still able to push his musicians to perfection and in this DVD we see exactly what Karajan did when he was probably able to conduct every one of Mahler's Symphonies in the course of a single year! Without hesitation buy this DVD. It is a fine documented moment in classical music history. By the way, Price, Pavarotti, Cossotto are still alive. Karajan passed away in 1988 and Ghiurov passed away a few years ago around 2003."
Then Luminaries, Now Legends
TODD KAY | 11/27/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This classic film from 1967, shot in an empty La Scala theater, always has been well regarded and only has gained in stature with the passage of 35 years, capturing as it did five legends in peak or at least prime form (conductor Karajan and the four immensely capable Verdians comprising the group of vocal soloists), along with the La Scala orchestra and its excellent chorus. The great Bulgarian bass Nicolai Ghiaurov anchors the team with a performance as authoritative and disciplined as it is suave and elegant; if anything, he is in better form here than on the celebrated Giulini-conducted recording of a few years earlier. Luciano Pavarotti, looking strikingly young and clean-shaven, was a last-minute and then-little-known substitute for the great tenor Carlo Bergonzi -- a turn of events that caused some anxiety on the part of organizers -- but in the accurate words of Karajan biographer Richard Osborne, "He sang like a god." His opening Kyrie eleison is the first, and certainly not the last, of the performance's deeply stirring moments. Leontyne Price delivers all of the radiant vocal production that one would expect from her at this juncture of her career, and for all of her well-noted difficulties with chest voice, in 1967 she could still give a respectable accounting even in the lowest reaches of the tricky Libera Me. Throughout her performance, beauty and keen involvement go hand in hand; there is no hint of routine. But if this performance "belongs" to any member of this quartet, if we must select a star among stars, then the laurel must go to Fiorenza Cossotto, whose stunningly rich Verdian mezzo-soprano voice is heard at its ferocious, incendiary best here, in (among other places) the Liber Scriptus of a lifetime. Karajan's view of this score is characteristically broad and cultivated, but it is a more lively, dramatic and immediate reading than we hear on his various recorded attempts with Berlin and Vienna orchestras (one of which has been issued on Sony DVD). It is difficult to say whether this can be chalked up to the occasion or perhaps to the conductor's interpretation's being filtered through a more directly idiomatic orchestra and chorus (the Italian chorus, trained by Roberto Benaglio, certainly puts its Viennese counterparts in the shade). There is undeniably an element of showmanship in Karajan's elaborate, fluid gestures (he directs without baton, as was his custom in the choral repertory), but I believe it would be a mistake to dismiss this as showmanship alone -- there is also evidence of an enormous expressive vocabulary, a superbly finished and graceful technique, and at all times a clear-eyed, firm-handed control of the proceedings. This was a great conductor. The film's director, the auteur Henri-Georges Clouzot, avoids many of the common pitfalls in documenting a classical-music performance. He is anything but static; indeed, he is consistently alert and enterprising in his choices. His camera whizzes cinematically from trumpet to balcony-borne trumpet in the Dies Irae; elsewhere captures the almost humorous aside of a wind player struggling to turn the page during a hectic orchestral passage, and, in a blink-and-you-miss-it felicity, finds Karajan (via stern facial expression and "whoa" gesture) reining in an unseen participant who apparently was about to jump his or her cue. On occasion, Clouzot also makes the interesting decision to "anticipate" a singer's entrance by several seconds, treating us to such sights as the regal Price standing motionless and awaiting a cue in the Offertorio, then finally letting loose with a perfectly shaped, shimmeringly beautiful high "E" -- this is an ecstatic moment. The transfer looks to be a video-to-DVD job, and this will disappoint those who had hoped for a ground-up remastering from the original film elements. To be frank, the quality is inconsistent from section to section, with blacks and flesh tones variable, and at times a generalized fading or flickering. Nevertheless, this is probably the best the film has looked in a home-video format, and it always has been marked by a relative pictorial softness. One may well decide that its mellow visuals lend it a certain understated classicism that befits the "time capsule" allure it has acquired with the passage of years. The audio news is unambiguously happier: the high frequencies are pleasingly firm and accommodating (no small matter in a recording featuring such singers as Price and Cossotto), and the sonic blend is decidedly better than on the VHS version, whose obtrusive tape hiss shall not be missed. It is somewhat bass-light, but the timpani crisply slices through at key moments, and definition is at least decent -- through high-end headphones, I could easily isolate various instruments in the mix. In sum, incidental caveats (mostly on the video level) aside, this is a treasurable performance; essential viewing/listening for admirers of these singers, this conductor, or simply the magnificent and moving work to which they gave the best of themselves on this day in January 1967. Priced significantly lower than full-price audio-only recordings of the Verdi Requiem (only a fraction of which rival the artistic quality of this one), it represents a bargain of which I advise readers to take advantage with haste."
Stunning, hair-rising Requiem
Plaza Marcelino | Caracas Venezuela | 03/31/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This may well be the Verdi Requiem you always waited for; in spite of its almost 40 years of having been recorded, it is only now that it gains legal and therefore more widespread circulation. Thoroughly idiomatic, with a cast the stuff dreams are made of, a marvellous and authentic-souding choir and orchestra. If Karajan's antics and mimics, the maestro ever the grand poseur, annoy or distract you, turn the telly off and just listen to the sound through a good sound system. The sound is remarkably fresh and proportions or sound planes between soloists, orchestra and chorus well managed. The La Scala orchestra may not be the Berlin Philharmonic -at the time an awe-inspiring virtuoso body of orchestral musicians, but Karajan still ventured ocasionally out of his Philharmonie to conduct elsewehere and other ensembles, his love affair with the Dresden orchestra is well documented- but they were long accustomed to the maestro's ways (they had often worked together since the war and through the 1950's and 1960's) and their enthusiasm and commitment do compensate for their lack of finesse -again, compared to the berliners of the time, I don't want to imply they play sloppily or inaccurately, nothing of the sort, they may well have been, and by far, Italy's best orchestra at the time-. The vocal quartet is beyond belief and has been sufficiently praised in these pages by others.
There was criticism in the press at the time of the concert this film was connected to about Karajan's overly theatrical approach, but in a way the work calls for it, Toscanini being the obvious model. Southern european warmth and commitment, roman catholic awe before the inevitability of death ot the ever announced day of wrath and a musical setting much imbued of the pomp and circumstance the Vatican Council would do away with a century later? That is the cultural environment the performance takes place in, the performance inheritance Karajan and his musicians performed under, barely three years after Vatican II strongly frowned upon the liturgical context Verdi wrote for, regardles of whether you think this Requiem better suits the church or the theatre. In some way or another, most of the great recordings of the work throughout the 20th century are closely associated with italians or roman catholics (Toscanini, De Sabata, Serafin, Abbado, Muti), practising or not but definitely bred and raised within a solid roman catholic conception of what a Requiem Mass is about and what it means. Does the work prove elusive to non-catholics then? Perhaps, but Karajan extracts wonders from his performers, Price and Cossotto the undoubted stars of the event. The would-be Parma footballer, Luciano Pavarotti, (thank God he exchanged the ball for the voice) is hard to recognise without his familiar beard and (for his later standards) slenderness, rendering a Kyrie and an Ingemisco that announce why he was starting to make a lot of noise in italian musical circles (and proves Karajan's hindsight as regards promising singers), Ghiaurov was by then an established figure, sought by all great houses on both sides of the Atlantic.
There is no way for me to sufficiently praise this recording. There are visual flaws as the work was studio-recorded to a large extent (if not in its entirety, there's no way to tell accurately) and the sound later dubbed in onto the image, which of course allowed Karajan to concentrate substantial film time on his image, gesturing and playing the mesmeriser to orchestra, soloists and chorus before an absent audience. He was, as I said above, a grand poseur but no doubt a fabulously equipped musician, to borrow somewhat from Harold Schonberg's remark on Bruno Walter, as this Verdi Requiem recording amply proves.
Full 1960's glamour then, weird female hairdos and all, all fully dressed up in full gala costumes for a truly memorable experience."
Karajan's Verdi Requiem - a religious experience.
Janos Gardonyi | Toronto, Ontario Canada | 04/10/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"If the readers will forgive me, the following is a reprint of my 2004 review of the VHS tape that was sporadically available at exorbitant prices. It is now re-issued on DVD for fraction of the price with vastly improved sound and picture quality.
"This is Herbert von Karajan's first video of the great Requiem by Verdi. It comes from 1967 when he was still relatively young, only 57 years old. He collected all the best forces available: the Orchestra and Chorus of the Scala of Milan and some of the greatest soloists of all time. It is a magnificent performance. There is total commitment throughout, an almost religious devotion to the conductor and the work itself.
That Karajan does this with the Scala forces immediately dispels the notion that he achieved all his fame due to the Berlin Philharmonic. The Orchestra plays with fierce intensity and precision that has rarely been heard from them. And the Chorus of serious and devoted Italian women and men sing like angels.
Karajan's concentration and total control is astonishing. His beat is almost unnoticeable, but his tempi are always perfect and relentless. His delicate hands, featured often in the film, shape the melodies and inspire the entire ensemble. But he is also capable of the superhuman hammer blows of the Dies Irae sequence, which are shattering. Tuba mirum has rarely sounded more awe inspiring, sending shivers down on everybody's spine. One could go on and on...
The soloists certainly do justice. Leontine Price , who sings without score, is showing intense sorrow throughout and great drama at the final Libera me section, her crowning achievement in this performance. Fiorenza Cassotto, one of the most underrated singers, is wonderfully mellifluous with her rich dark hued mezzo soprano voice (she also sings without a score). A young Pavarotti, his voice in its prime, is very impressive indeed.(he hasn't got the famous beard yet!) and Nicolai Ghiarov, probably the best basso of our generation, is beyond praise.
Unfortunately,for some reason, Deutsche Gramophone, after releasing it in DVD, seems to have withdrawn or discontinued it. Right now they are only available onVHS and not too many of those either, so the price is exorbitant. Hopefully DGG will realize the problem and re-release the DVD soon.
In spite of all this I still highly recommend it.. It is an other worldly experience."
That being said, I urge you to go for it while supplies last.