This is a very good performance of the Piano Concerto No. 2 and the Rhapsody on a Theme by Paganini performed by Andrei Gavrilov, the Russian Pianist, and the Philadelphia Orchestra, conducted by Riccardo Muti. It is a very good interpretation of these works, capturing all the intensity and nuance, energy and romance, of these selections. There are passages of incredible speed where precision is essential and this is evident in this recording. Gavrilov has the ability to fully express the magnificence of some passages and the more brooding nuance and subtlety of other passages. The Philadelphia Orchestra sounds terrific in this recording.
As a more consistently light-hearted version, with delightful La Scala sets and colourful costumes, the 1994 TDK Don Pasquale will also be hard to beat. Visually it is a joy, and with three outstanding principals the performance sparkles from start to finish. By not seeming too old, Ferruccio Furlanetto’s portrayal of Don Pasquale is the more convincing, but he has no chance against Nuccia Focille’s minx of a Norina and one certainly feels sorry for him at his discomfiture. Gregory Kunde is an appropriately ardent Ernesto; his voice isn’t creamy but the sings passionately and has good comic timing, and Lucio Gallo enters into the spirit of the story as a wily Dottore Malatesta.
Three of Mozart's most popular operas – Le nozze di Figaro, Don Giovanni, and Così fan tutte, conducted by leading opera maestro Riccardo Muti in performances from Vienna and Salzburg, are here available in one set.
For this 2017 CSO-Resound release, Riccardo Muti and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra present Anton Bruckner's unfinished Symphony No. 9 in D minor in a monumental performance that impresses with its marmoreal weight, poignant lyricism, and brutal volatility. Not widely known for his few Bruckner recordings, Muti nonetheless delivers this symphony with the passion and sensitivity of an experienced Brucknerian, and possibly because he hasn't recorded it before, this live rendition of the Ninth seems like an attempt to make up for lost time. Muti's intensity and the orchestra's ferocious power combine to make a memorable reading that may remind listeners of performances by such greats as Günter Wand, Eugen Jochum, and particularly Carlo Maria Giulini, whose recordings of the Ninth are recognized benchmarks. While Muti only performs the three completed movements, and eschews any attempted reconstructions of the surviving Finale sketches, the performance has a genuine feeling of wholeness, and the Adagio particularly has the grandeur and pathos that make it feel like a convincing ending, albeit one that the composer did not intend.
This live issue from the 2008 Salzburg Festival centers around Riccardo Muti’s driving, powerful take on Verdi’s score. He gets wonderful, idiomatic playing from the Vienna Philharmonic, and the recorded balance in fact tends to favor the orchestra over the fine, largely fresh-voiced singers. (Muti uses an unusual edition of Act III’s concertato that Verdi wrote for the opera’s Paris premiere, featuring considerable variants in the soprano line and lighter orchestration.)
Maria Guleghina impresses strongly. To my mind she is Puccini’s ideal ‘tart with a heart for gold’. She has control and sensitivity and she acts everybody off the stage. She’s coy (but with just a hint of being street-wise) in Act I, outrageously flighty and avaricious in Act II, and, at last, contrite in Act IV. Just watch her as she taunts Geronte di Ravoir (a far too gentlemanly Luigi Roni) in Act II and the way she disports herself on the floor of the stage to seduce Des Grieux back to her charms.
Unlike Verdi's earlier successes, Nabucco and I Lombardi, both of which had been composed for the large stage at La Scala, Milan, Ernani was written for the smaller stage and more intimate atmosphere of Teatro La Fenice, Venice and he was in his thirty third year when it was composed. This recording is superb in every way. The singers, led by Placido Domingo as Ernani and Mirella Freni as Donna Elvira, entertain us with bravura performances and it's a joy to listen to and watch from beginning to end.
The Milan „Otello“ traditionally opens the Scala season and did so in 2001 on 7 December, but at the same time it was the farewell production before the start of the three-year renovation of the house and not least a brilliant end to the Verdi Year. The audience as well as the press cheered Barbara Frittoli as a youthfully charming Desdemona, Leo Nucci as cleverly self-controlled Iago and Plácido Domingo as a thrilling Otello, both from the dramatic and the singing point of view. Domingo had been the leading Moro di Venezi for a quarter of a century, and in Milan he said farewell to this role – “in triumph”, according to ‘The Herald Tribune’.
I have a personal criterion for judging sopranos in modern recordings of any role that Maria Callas excelled in: If you can beat Callas, you are gold. And despite her achievements in bel canto roles (most of which I find uninteresting, either dramatically or as music), I still think that Callas’s greatest gift to the world of opera, particularly opera in Italy, was to point out to the entire country and the world how much more there was in roles like Elvira in I Vespri Siciliani, Cheribini’s Medea, Iphigénie in this opera, and yes, even Lady Macbeth than had been previously thought.