“In Great Britain in the 1960s, the art of large-scale choral singing reached what was arguably its apogee with the work of the two choruses featured here: the Philharmonia Chorus, directed by Wilhelm Pitz, and the Edinburgh Festival Chorus, directed by Arthur Oldham. Even allowing for the fact that this Prom performance of the Verdi Requiem was given around the time of an intensive period of rehearsal during which the EMI studio recording was also being made, the Philharmonia Chorus's singing is stunningly good: firstrate diction, impeccable intonation, fine dynamic control and absolute involvement in the music as Giulini relays it to them. In the Schubert Mass the Edinburgh Festival Chorus acquits itself magnificently. Giulini's reading is powerful and reverential, one in which the chorus comes to speak with the single voice of an individual believer. The Verdi is superbly recorded. The unnamed BBC team working live in the Royal Albert Hall produce sound that's focused yet open, clear but warm. Giulini's reading of the Requiem, thrilling yet humane, is precisely the one we hear on EMI's recording, with the Philharmonia Chorus and Orchestra as expert live as they are on record (the orchestral playing is well-nigh flawless). Of the solo singers, the youngest, Anna Reynolds, could have gone straight into the EMI recording, so well does she sing. Richard Lewis, nearing the end of his career, is less gorgeous of voice than EMI's Nicolai Gedda, but the bass, David Ward, here at the height of his powers, is more than a match for the younger Nicolai Ghiaurov. Amy Shuard and EMI's Elisabeth Schwarzkopf are complementary. Shuard is technically fine; very much the real thing dramatically and absolutely right for the live performance. In short, this is an indispensable set.”
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