Essentials Solti hdl 214
Conductor Solti
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Essentials Muti sm 214
Tenor Mario Zeffiri, Abdrazakov, Muti
© Todd Rosenberg Photography 2014
Essentials Benacova sm 214
Underwater treasure: Beňačková as Rusalka
© Beth Bergman 2014

Essential Recording of Der Rosenkavalier Decca/Universal's version from 1968. Perhaps only the Vienna Philharmonic could have so thoroughly captured the old-Vienna magic of Richard Strauss's coziest, most warmhearted opera. Under the exhilarating direction of Georg Solti, this is one of the few uncut recordings of the work. Régine Crespin, with her simultaneously huge and voluptuous sound, is an ideal Marschallin. Yvonne Minton is a witty Octavian, and Helen Donath offers a beautifully sung Sophie. Manfred Jungwirth is an appropriately crude but never overscaled Baron Ochs. Luxury casting — Luciano Pavarotti as the Italian Singer and Arleen Auger as one of the Three Noble Orphans. Red Spacer 1213 Broadcast coverage of the Met's Rosenkavalier begins on p. 34.  

Essential Ildar Abdrazakov Primer:  Verdi Requiem on CSO Resound. Abdrazakov has made a calling card of the Verdi Requiem; Met-goers may have heard him perform it in the company's 2008 pre-opening-night Verdi Requiem tribute to the late Luciano Pavarotti, but anyone who missed that performance can seek out one of Abdrazakov's three recordings of the piece. The 2009 CSO recording, with Riccardo Muti on the podium, exhibits just how much color Abdrazakov's voice can lend the Requiem. He manages to sound terrified and terrifying in the Confutatis. In the Offertorio, listen to how Abdrazakov is able to make his bass match the sound of the cellos when he sings with them. (Barbara Frittoli, pairing with a solo violin, is not quite so subtle.) Abdrazakov also adds a beautiful foundation to the a cappella ensemble singing in the Lux Aeterna. Red Spacer 1213 Ildar Abdrazakov speaks with F. Paul Driscoll, "Encountering Ildar." 

Essential Rusalka on Disc:  Gabriela Beňačková, in the 1984 Supraphon recording, with Václav Neumann conducting the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra and Prague Philharmonic Choir. Although Rusalka was once confined to the outskirts of the repertory, the Czech operatic revival of recent decades has pushed Dvorˇák's fairy tale forward. There are now numerous theatrical accounts of the heartbreaking song to the moon to debate. On record, our unrivaled favorite is Beňačková's. The luminous top of the Czech soprano's voice is heard in all its glory; her phrasing is downright sumptuous, and she catches both the character's feyness and the intense yearning to be mortal in a performance that seems lit by the moon itself. Red Spacer 1213 See Fred Cohn's essay on Rusalka, "A Fish Out of Water." 

Essential Polovtsian Dances Recording:  Valery Gergiev and the Kirov Orchestra and Chorus (Philips/Universal, 1993). Recordings of the piece, Alexander Borodin's household-name excerpt from Prince Igor, are about as easy to find as vodka in Russia; if you have a favorite orchestra, chances are they've recorded it. But Gergiev and the Kirov Orchestra and Chorus present an interpretation that's more thrilling than most others: the recording has a breakneck momentum through to the end, and the men's dances — the General Dance in particular — have a menacing, violent quality to them. It's as if Gergiev wanted you to remember that war is a central part of Prince Igor's plot. NB: This performance differs from the complete Igor Gergiev and the Kirov released on Philips two years later. Red Spacer 1213 Marina Frolova-Walker explains Prince Igor, in "Fresh Prince."


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