- Requiem Mass, for soloists, chorus & orchestra (Manzoni Requiem)
- Sacred Pieces (4), for chorus & orchestra (Quattro pezzi sacri)
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Fritz Reiner's clean, lean, and thrilling account of the Verdi Requiem will alternately set your hair on end and move you quite deeply. While Verdi's daring rearrangement of the Latin text for the Requiem Mass brought its share of criticism in his day, the critics have long been silenced by the profound beauty of this somber, operatically proportioned masterpiece. Reiner's unsentimental yet flexible 1960 performance is carefully calibrated to pack a wallop when it needs to. For example, after a lovely, straightforward reading of the plaintive "Requiem" movement, Reiner's fabled rhythmic precision drives his rafters-shaking "Dies irae" like a juggernaut of brimstone; you'll want to have your hand on the volume knob for this one. The string playing of the Vienna Philharmonic is especially fine, as in the swirling pianissimo passages in the "Sanctus" and the descending chromatic runs in the "Lux aeterna." Reiner also enjoys a dream vocal quartet. The sure-footed bass Giorgio Tozzi seems most in line with Reiner's frank interpretation of Verdi's music. The "Lux aeterna" elicits attractive and unusually soul-bearing singing from mezzo-soprano Rosalind Elias. But it is the stellar vocal duo topping the roster that makes this recording truly historic. The incomparable Swedish tenor Jussi Björling was only months away from death, while the great Leontyne Price was only months away from the Metropolitan Opera debut that would establish her as the great Verdi soprano of her generation. As his biographers have noted, Björling staved off his drinking demons during Reiner's recording sessions; his inspired singing here captures him at the top of his form. As a bonus, this generously filled reissue also includes Verdi's other sacred masterpieces, the Quattro pezzi sacri, in a performance led by Zubin Mehta.