MOZART: Requiem Mass in d minor, K. 626; Don Giovanni: Overture and Soprano Arias – Leontyne Price, sop./Hilde Roessel-Majdan, alto/ Fritz Wunderlich, tenor/ Walter Berry, bass/ Eberhard Waechter, bass/ Franz Sauer, organ/ Vienna Philharmonic and Chorus/ Herbert von Karajan – Archipel ARPCD 0511, 70:58 (11/13/15) [Distr. by Naxos] ****:
The year 1960 proved a banner year for soprano Leontyne Price (b. 1927), considered the first Afro-American singer to achieve international status as a classical artist in opera. After her European debut, she and conductor Herbert von Karajan (1908-1989) bonded well; and here in Salzburg (24 August 1960), they both appear at the top of their respective forms. Karajan assembles a stellar vocal ensemble for the Requiem, including the inimitable voice of tenor Fritz Wunderlich (1930-1966), whose appearance in the Tuba mirum, Recordare, Domine Jesu Christe, and Benedictus sections proves especially felicitous. We could spend considerable time focusing on individual touches by Price in her stratospheric tessitura or the clear, plangent bass tones of Walter Berry. The performance has majesty and breadth, the pacing solemn without heaviness, unlike many of the Berlin Karajan experiences. Typically, Karajan favors a grand, rounded sound; but in the affecting Lacrimosa and Benedictus, the approach heightens the echt Mozart experience, whatever the later Suessmayr emendations.
The “pirate” label Archipel adds some fifteen minutes of the Don Giovanni production from the same Salzburg Festival. Price projects a severe Donna Anna, from her opening “Or sai chi l’onore,” where she has deduced that the Don had been complicit in her father’s death, and she begs vengeance upon the murderer. From Act II, Scene 5 we have the recitative and aria, “Crudele? Ah, no, mio ben! Non mi dir, bell’idol mio,” in which Donna Anna entreats Don Ottavio to delay talk of marriage until her period of mourning has passed. The grim fatality of the scene finds a deep response in Price, whose “il ciello ancora/Sentira pieta di me” lacks any real sense of faith, despite the melismatic fluency of her assertions. With the Karajan ensemble’s excitement and tonal pungency behind her, Price virtually has the Salzburg audience howling their delight. A fine record, with more than acceptable sound, and an insert photo of Eberhard Waechter that will serve as a pin-up.