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Subject: Vishnevskaya (was Re: Heather Harper)
From: "G. Paul Padillo" <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:G. Paul Padillo
Date:Sun, 8 Jul 2018 19:49:42 -0400
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I'm once again switching the subject title (I don't CARE if anyone minds) because these 
threads, as they morph are no longer about the original topic, and for anyone who accesses 
Opera-L through the Archives (I can't imagine anyone wanting to get all these messages in 
email) and those of us who make use of the Archives to fact check, or just stroll down 
Memory Lane, it makes things far easier.  I can't count the number of searches I've done 
where I've typed in a singer/composer/opera and had to wade through dozens of posts that 
had NOTHING to do with the Subject line.  Now, that THAT's off my chest . . . 

I've been glad reading posts again on this great Russian lady and that others (thank you 
Vesna, and Donald) who find "Galina . . . " to be among the finest autobios from any 
musician.

I recall a debate from a year or so ago when someone declared Netrebko "the most 
important soprano since Callas or Sutherland."  I countered by stating Netrebko wasn't even 
the most important Russian soprano since Callas or Sutherland, citing Vishnevskaya as 
having covered a wider repertoire and with more vastly different styles, and had done so 
even by the time she was Anna's present age.  

I still return to many of Vishnevskaya's recordings and I don't think I've ever read ANY book 
as many times as I've read hers.  Her two films - the legendary "Katerina Ismailova" and 
the profoundly moving (non-operatic) "Alexandra" by Alexander Sokurov (one of my 
favorite Russian filmmakers of any era). are great cinema by any standard. 

I recall a while back finally getting my hands on a copy of the 1961 Verdi Requiem with 
Markevitch leading the Russian State Academy Choir and the Moscow State Philharmonic 
Academy Orchestra and telling anyone within ear shot it was most hair raising performance 
Ive ever encountered of the Verdi.   

Markevitch unleashed the Soviet forces in a performance that is staggering in its dynamics 
being pushed to the extremes in both directions:  pianissimi are more hushed (and 
reverent) then one is often used to hearing and the moments of fiery fury are as wildly 
dramatic as one is likely to encounter.  The brass and string playing are immaculate to the 
point of my wondering how such sonic violence was achieved without ever losing 
musicianship . . . or control!  There are too many genuine stand out moments, to count 
here, but a few, such as the threatening sound of the swirling strings and winds in the 
"Liber Scriptus"  the text ("all that is hidden will be revealed  nothing will be left 
unpunished") turned out in almost horror movie fashion.

The "Dies Irae" is ripped through as if one had been given a one way ticket on the express 
train to hell.   It is absolutely hair raising.  The soloists, Nina Isakova, Vladimir Ivanovsky 
and Ivan Petrov all do fine work  even if the Latin diction has that tell-tale Slavic-edge to 
it.  But . . . but Vishnevskaya offers one of the most uniquely dramatic "Libera mes" one is 
likely to experience and at moments ("tremens factos sum ergo") she can be terrifying  
then switch to truly exquisite piano singing . . . music simply floated out in a way that is 
achingly lovely.   

I concluded my review of that recording writing:  

". . . Vishnevskaya may surprise with her ability to sweeten the sound in those moments it 
is ever filled with emotion and unexpected grace.  Then, of course, there are the dramatic 
moments where, predictably, she leaves blood all over the place.  Her final "libera me 
Domine de morte . . . " is as though a final gasp from one already dead; hers is the sound 
of the soul making its final, heart-rending supplication for mercy . . . before the final shovel 
of dirt is thrown onto it."

My opinion has not changed.  

p.

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