Messa da Requiem
Everyone knows that the Requiem is another opera in the disguise of an oratorio, a typically extravagant Verdian exercise in tub-thumping. But what everyone knows is wrong. Verdi wrote the Requiem to commemorate two great Italian artists: Gioacchino Rossini, his predecessor as Italy’s leading composer, and Alessandro Manzoni, the novelist. Yes, it has its big moments, but its essence is really contained in its more contemplative passages: the mournful ”Lacrymosa,” for example, or the glowing ”Libera Me.”
No one knows that better than Giulini, whose intensely spiritual, probing interpretations of the standard repertoire have made him a hero to a generation of younger conductors sick of the flash and dash that too often passes for music-making these days. Giulini treasures life’s minutes of repose rather than its days of judgment, and insists on hearing the Requiem as a sacred, not profane, piece of music.
He keeps his four soloists on a tight leash, never allowing them to drift into an avertly ”operatic” style; Vinson Cole isn’t Domingo or Pavarotti, but Giulini doesn’t want him to be. Still, the voices could be a little better. This dark, rather brooding performance may not be to everyone’s taste, but as we’ve seen, everyone has been wrong about the Requiem before. B+