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Giuseppe VERDI (1813-1901)
Viva Verdi - Overtures and Preludes
I vespri siciliani (1855) - Sinfonia [8.48]
Alzira (1845) - Sinfonia [6.09]
La Traviata (1853) - Prelude to Act I [3.48]
Il Corsaro (1847-8) - Prelude to Act I [2.47]
Nabucco (1842) - Sinfonia [6.57]
Jérusalem (1847) - Introduction [4.36];Airs de Ballet (4 tracks) [19.17]
Giovanna D’Arco (1845) - Sinfonia [7.10]
Aida (1872) - Prelude [3.41]
Macbeth (1847/1865) - Prelude to Act I [3.21]
La forza del destino (1869) - Sinfonia [7.11]
Filarmonica della Scala/Riccardo Chailly
rec. Auditorium di Milano, 5-11 June 2012
DECCA 478 3559 [73.55]

This year we celebrate the 200th anniversary of Verdi’s birth; he was born on 10 October 1813. A flood of new recordings and reissues can therefore be expected as we approach the birth date. This new arrival, a collection of purely orchestral music could prove to be one of the more interesting.
 
The collection encompasses overtures and preludes, the earlier ones displaying marked influences but all quite deliberately designed to create the right mood for the drama to follow. Fabrizio Della Seta’s succinct notes for this album describe the format, style and function of each.
 
Riccardo Chailly is an ideal interpreter of this heady music. He brings out all the fire, drama, melodrama and romance from these scores. Those who remember, for instance, the passion he brought to his recording of Puccini’s Manon Lescaut Act III Intermezzo will know precisely what I mean.

Commenting briefly on the album content, the collection opens with the I vespri siciliani Sinfonia and its funereal slow march. There’s an opening heavy with foreboding before excitement and turbulence succeed. Then follows a lovely broad love theme. Rossini’s influence is evident.
 
The early Alzira is of variable quality but is pleasant enough. The Sinfonia has a teasingly playful and exotic introduction, then proud majestic material plus perky, cheeky material.
 
With La Traviata most of us recognise familiar ground. The brief Prelude to Act I in no uncertain manner places Violetta as the central character. Those high ethereal string chords eloquently suggest her tragic fate. Then there is the melody for ‘Anami Alfredo’ poignant but with those frivolous staccato string overlays.
 
The very brief Il corsaro Prelude to Act II is a wonderfully expressive swashbuckling evocation with steel on steel counter-balanced with the poignant theme for the dying Medora. The Act I Prelude to Nabucco opens with a solemn melancholic brass fanfare leading to the statement of that defiantly patriotic theme delivered at the gallop and the Va pensiero melody. 

Jérusalem
is sometimes called I Lombardi today. It was first performed at the Académie Royale de Musique, in 1847 in Paris. Set during the Crusades, it has an involved plot that sports an exiled and disguised hero and a kidnapped woman. The introduction is suitably strongly pious and heroic. The ballet music is very pleasant and those who have enjoyed the ballroom scene that Visconti included in his film of The Leopard (Il Gattopardo) will know what I mean. This 19+ minute suite is presented here in four sections: the opening ‘Pas de quatre’ covers various moods and tempi and is very feminine, graceful and lively. The ‘Pas de deux’ is more intimate, tempestuous and flirtatious. The ‘Pas de solo’ has a lovely harp solo, its music poignant. There is also whimsical material and merry twitterings for intertwining woodwinds. The ‘Pas d’ensemble’ continues in this mood. More than once you wonder if you’ve come across music by Respighi. 

The dramatic Sinfonia for Giovanna d’Arco speaks of the anxiety and innocence of the young girl, of her piety and of her humble background. Fiery swaggering material illustrates her steely determination to free France. The Act I Prelude to Aida with its high strings representing the heroine’s emotional state is contrasted with the harsh, unfeeling rigidity of the priests’ expression of political expediency.  The Macbeth Prelude screeches madly and speaks melodramatically and bloodthirstily. The La forza del destino music is another well-known favourite and surely needs no comment from me. Chailly delivers a really exciting performance.
 
Chailly delivers thrilling - even electrifying performances of these Verdi overtures.
 
Ian Lace 

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