This is a recording of rarely heard choral works by Verdi, performed by all-Italian forces – the Orchestra and Chorus of Teatre Regio in Turin, with the soloists Barbara Frittoli and Francesco Meli, under the conductor Gianandrea Noseda, an exclusive Chandos artist – for totally idiomatic results.
The opera La forza del destino was first performed in the Bolshoi Kamenny Theatre of St Petersburg in 1862. Featured on this recording is ‘La vergine degli angeli’, the chorus that ends Act III. Here Leonora (whom everyone supposes to be a man) is sent by the Monastery of Hornachuelos to live in a hermit’s cave for the rest of her life. The monks invoke the Virgin to protect the new hermit and send Leonora off with one of Verdi’s most beautiful choruses (which also features an exquisite solo for Leonora).
Soon after completing La forza del destino, Verdi was asked to prepare an Italian entry for the London International Exhibition. He agreed, and the result was the Inno delle nazioni, to words by Arrigo Boito. The piece ultimately did not figure in the official celebrations, but was performed to great acclaim in London in 1862. The work includes an orchestral introduction and a chorus, an impassioned recitation by the soloist, and a beautiful melody for soloist, then chorus. Verdi cites the national anthems of England, France, and Italy, before combining them in a contrapuntal tour de force.
With the death in 1868 of Gioachino Rossini, Verdi took it upon himself to commission all the most important composers of Italy to prepare a composite Mass in his memory. The mass was to be performed on the first anniversary of Rossini’s death, but when the city of Bologna proved unable to arrange the performance in time, the project was abandoned. Verdi, however, persevered and did complete the intended final movement, ‘Libera me, Domine’, recorded here. He would rework the movement for his later Messa da Requiem.
Completing the disc are the Quattro pezzi sacri (Four Sacred Pieces): Ave Maria, Laudi alla Vergine Maria, Stabat Mater, and Te Deum. The two choruses with full orchestra, the Stabat Mater and Te Deum, Verdi’s last compositions, are based on well-known poems. The first, celebrating Mary as she stands by the Cross, was set by many composers. For the Te Deum, written for double chorus, Verdi turned to a text often, though not here, used to celebrate victories and coronations. It quickly became common practice to perform the four pieces together, with a chorus singing the unaccompanied, but moving, Ave Maria and Laudi alla Vergine Maria, originally composed for solo voices.