Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks - BRSO

Riccardo Muti conducts Verdi’s Messa da Requiem

CD: Riccardo Muti – Verdi-Requiem © BR-KLASSIK Label

Live-recording of the legendary performances of Verdi’s “Messa da Requiem” on October 8 and 9, 1981 in the Herkulessaal of the Munich Residenz. The Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks plays under the baton of the then 40-year-old Riccardo Muti. These performances of Verdi’s Requiem were his first ever appearances in Munich.

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Verdi’s Messa da Requiem is the most famous 19th-century setting of the Latin Mass for the Dead and – after or alongside Mozart’s Requiem – is also the most well-known altogether. This huge work, with its massive orchestral forces and the powerful effect it is capable of exerting on its audiences, ranks on the one hand as an ecclesiastical-musical creation of the highest order, and on the other as “Verdi’s most beautiful opera” (and this more of a compliment than a point of criticism). The Munich performances of October 1981 under the baton of Riccardo Muti were concert events that have hardly been equalled since, let alone surpassed – so powerful were the chorus and orchestra, so strictly did the maestro keep his eye on the interpretation, and so superb were the renowned soloists – singers of international renown who gave their all to achieve the best possible result. And they all succeeded brilliantly. Finally – four decades later – BR-KLASSIK can now present this absolute pinnacle in the performance history of Verdi’s Messa da Requiem on CD.

The illustrious names of the vocal soloists, all of them with Verdi and Requiem experience, are Jessye Norman, Agnes Baltsa, José Carreras and Yevgeny Nesterenko; the multi-award-winning Bavarian Radio Chorus can also be heard, rehearsed by British chorus master Gordon Kember, who had just assumed his post. The Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks plays here under the overall direction of the then 40-year-old Riccardo Muti, who was making his first appearances in Munich with these two concerts. They were followed by countless others, all of them every bit as exciting.

The audience was spellbound and totally captivated, and there was glowing praise from the critics, too: the powerful work, they said, had hardly ever been heard like this on this side of the Alps; Riccardo Muti had demonstrated how Verdi’s Requiem should sound; this performance of Verdi’s requiem mass was authentic, frightening, tender and terrifying, providing a timid yet hopeful glimpse of transcendence; all in all, a truly resounding success. Wolf-Dieter Peter, a reviewer for the Mittelbayrische Zeitung in Regensburg (see booklet), was there at the time and reported how the extra trumpets positioned in the gallery of the Herkulessaal “blasted a glistening jet of metallic sound across the stalls, almost as if from the afterlife”. It was something, he said, that had “never been seen, heard or experienced like this before… simply unforgettable.”

Jessye Norman soprano
Agnes Baltsa alto
José Carreras tenor
Yevgeny Nesterenko bass

Bavarian Radio Chorus
Gordon Kember
 chorus master

Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks
Riccardo Muti

2 CDs – Total Time: CD1: 46:25 / CD2: 37:36