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Subject: Re: Tebaldi Aida under Karajan
From: Ombrarecds <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Ombrarecds <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Mon, 26 Sep 2016 13:13:42 -0500
Content-Type:text/plain
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Bergonzi, Gencer, Cossotto. Arena Verona. Aida.

Patrick Byrne

Sent from my iPhone

On Sep 25, 2016, at 9:40 PM, "Max D. Winter" <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

> Here's what I wrote about this recording, one of my favorites, on Opera-l back in 2011:
> 
> I bought the Decca/Karajan "Aida" on LP a long time ago and I didn't much
> like it (I don't remember why, but I think Karajan's tempi and Tebaldi's
> flatting had something to do with it).  It has been ages since I listened to it.
> 
> Well, I have been re-listening to this recording, on the remastered Decca
> "Legendary Performances" CD version, in SUPERB sound, and I have been bowled
> over by the beauty of this performance.  I love Karajan's tempi - slower in
> places than one usually hears, certainly, but they have energy and real
> sweep and grandeur.  And the orchestral playing is stunning.  "Aida" has some
> of Verdi's most exquisite and imaginative orchestration, and Karajan's
> attention to orchestral detail is revelatory.  The first time I heard
> "Celeste Aida," sung superbly by Bergonzi, I found myself entranced, not by
> Bergonzi's singing, but with hearing details in the orchestra I had never
> noticed before.  Then I re-listened and heard Bergonzi and the orchestra
> together.  It was not a case of the orchestra being too prominent, but of a
> great conductor bringing things out that usually pass unnoticed.  
> 
> And then there is the sheer beauty of the Vienna Philharmonic's playing
> under Karajan.  Even in the big, fortissimo passages, the sound is beautiful
> and perfectly balanced.  Listen, for example, to the big, off-the-beat
> orchestral chords in the opening chorus of the Triumphal Scene: a huge and
> imposing sound, but balanced and never brassy or blary, and never just
> "loud."  One could go on and on with more examples, but suffice it to say
> that I heard more going on, musically in "Aida" in this recording than I
> have ever heard before - and I know this opera well!  When I compared this
> recording to my other favorite, the Solti/Price/Vickers on RCA, the Rome
> Opera Orchestra sounded rather coarse by comparison.
> 
> The singing is splendid, too, up and down the line, with two minor
> exceptions: Tebaldi's top, which sometimes goes under pitch (I am surprised
> that the pitch-compromised high A at the end of "O patria mia" passed muster
> with the producer and conductor); and Cornell MacNeil's dramatically blank
> Amonasro.  But on balance, both performances are satisfying, especially
> Tebaldi's.  What gorgeous singing in the middle and upper-middle registers!!
> And the weight of her voice, a genuine spinto, is perfect for Aida. 
> MacNeil doesn't sound like he knows what the words mean, but he produces
> very impressive sounds, a real Verdi baritone.
> 
> Bergonzi is the impeccable Verdi stylist that he usually is, singing with a
> sweetness of tone that makes Radames a very sympathetic character. 
> Simionato is, IMO, the best Amneris on disc, every bit Barbieri's equal in
> power and with a much more secure top; more plush in sound and more
> characterful than Cossotto; and more authentically Italianate than Gorr. 
> Arnold van Mill sings with rich tone as Ramfis, sounding a lot at times like
> Nicola Zaccaria.  I'm not so sure about Corena's King; I keep hearing Don
> Bartolo or the Sacristan!  
> 
> Most of all, what a difference it makes having (mostly) Italian singers
> singing Italian!!  The text just jumps out at you. 
> 
> The recording balance on this recording has always been controversial.  The
> standard line of opinion is that the voices are too recessed and not
> prominent enough.  I don't know if it is just my ears or the remastering,
> but I had no problem with the balance.  True, the voices are not as
> in-your-lap as on EMI recordings of this vintage, but I could hear the
> singers just fine.  Off-stage effects are perfectly judged, as usual with
> Decca's Solfiensaal recordings.  
> 
> I am so glad to have made this recording's re-acquaintance.  It goes right
> up there with the Solti as one of my two favorites of this opera.
> 
> MDW
> 
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