RENEE FLEMING, OLGA BORODINA, ANDREA BOCELLI AND ILDEBRANDO D'ARCANGELO, WITH VALERY GERGIEV CONDUCTING THE KIROV ORCHESTRA AND CHORUS; Verdi, Requiem (Philips) ****
WALTER GIESEKING, PIANO; Debussy, Preludes Books I and II (EMI Classics) ****
LAUREL ANN MAURER, FLUTE, AND JOANNE PEARCE MARTIN, PIANO; "Legacy of the American Woman Composer" (4TAY) ***
This newest recording of the Verdi Requiem is one of the most magnificent and musically rewarding of this work you'll find today. The music is beautifully presented and flawlessly executed. Conductor Valery Gergiev's interpretation is powerful and filled with passion and fire, yet it possesses a remarkable sense of sublime humility and delicate refinement.
All four soloists on this album are outstanding. They put feeling and heartfelt emotion into their singing. Soprano Renee Fleming is sensational in her solo and ensemble numbers, particularly in the breathtakingly ethereal "Libera me." And, quite frankly, any recording that has Fleming in it is worth having.
Andrea Bocelli's lyrical, smooth and fluid tenor lends itself well to Verdi's music. And equally outstanding are mezzo-soprano Olga Borodina and bass Ildebrando D'Arcangelo.
The orchestra is superb, as is the chorus. Gergiev gets the most out of his forces, and this translates into an awe-inspiring performance. And if Gergiev's thundering "Dies irae" doesn't give you goose bumps, nothing will.
This is a recording you'll want to listen to over and over. Simply put, Verdi's Requiem doesn't get any better than this.
WALTER GIESEKING'S phenomenal recordings of the Debussy preludes have finally been released by EMI. Recorded in the early 1950s not long before his death, this recording is a remarkable testament to his artistry.
Gieseking was a true poet of the piano. His pianism here is immaculate, and the tonal landscapes he evokes in these preludes are luminous and shimmering. In his hands, these pieces are insightful, finely carved miniatures. Gieseking captures the essence of each prelude perfectly, and his exquisite interpretations display his astonishing range of expressions. When you hear Gieseking, you're awed by the beauty of his playing, by his carefully shaded and nuanced phrasings and by his enchantingly personal approach to the music.
Of particular note is his wispy "Les sons et les parfums tournent dans l'air du soir," and his touchingly tender "La fille aux cheveux du lin," taken at a daringly slow tempo that gives this piece an almost mystical quality.
In "Les tierces alternees" and "Feux d'artifice," on the other hand, Gieseking positively overwhelms you with his sparkling and radiant performance, which exudes brilliance and fire.
Gieseking raises these preludes to a higher level, giving them new meaning and making them come alive through his intelligent and thoughtful interpretations. Once you hear Gieseking play these preludes, you won't be satisfied with anyone else's performance.
LAUREL ANN MAURER is an exceptional flutist. Her playing is vibrant and exciting and full of energy and passion. Her musicality is unsurpassed, and her virtuosity is stunning. And her performances are marked with an engaging enthusiasm that is genial and appealing.
Pianist Joanne Pearce Martin is the perfect accompanist for Maurer. Although a fine pianist in her own right, Martin is an outstanding collaborator and is totally in tune with Maurer. Together, they make quite a team.
For this CD, Maurer has chosen to spotlight contemporary women composers, including Utah's own Marie Barker Nelson. (Nelson's piece, "Songs of the Moon," was, in fact, commissioned by Maurer.)
Even though the seven works on this album were written in the past 50 years, the music is nevertheless melodic, quite listenable and thoroughly enjoyable. A couple of the pieces are especially noteworthy — Libby Larsen's poignant "Aubade" for solo flute and Gwyneth Walker's charming and unpretentious "Theme and Variations" for flute and piano.
However, all of the works on the album show the composers' melodic inventiveness and, in particular, Maurer's incomparable playing.