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Recording a piece like the Verdi Requiem in the Barbican presents various technical challenges. Scored for very large forces, it pushes to the limit the number of people you can fit on the stage. It is a work with an enormous dynamic range. Maestro Noseda, with this performance, teases every decibel from barely audible to almost ear-shattering climax. Representing that in a recording is a challenge, but one that our experienced team of engineers at Classic Sound was more than capable of overcoming.

Producer: Nicholas Parker
Engineering: Classic Sound Ltd
Recorded: Live in DSD, September 2016, Barbican Hall, London

The work itself was written as a tribute to Alessandro Manzoni – the eminent Italian novelist and poet – and was premiered on the first anniversary of his death. Verdi responded to the text of the Requiem in the musical language with which he felt most comfortable; as a result, the work has often been referred to as “Verdi’s greatest opera. Perhaps this is appropriate, considering the dramatic nature of the “Dies irae” text. Certainly, as with Berlioz’s Grande Messe des morts and Brahms’ Ein deutsches Requiem, Verdi’s Requiem is not religious in any conventional way.

The work begins quietly with hushed strings and chorus, eventually expanding at the Kyrie to include woodwinds and horns. The cataclysmic opening of the “Dies Irae” is one of the most famous moments of choral and orchestral music, familiar to so many through its extensive use in films and television productions, and is heard returning at various points throughout the rest of the “Dies Irae”, holding the extended movement (10 tracks) together. The “Tuba mirum” is introduced by trumpets from all sides – on stage and in the auditorium – and builds to a sequence of shattering climaxes, before quiet returns at “Mors stupebit”. The remainder of the “Dies irae” sees the soloists shine in various combinations.

A warm and luminous “Offertorium” follows, which is then shattered by the trumpet fanfares of the “Sanctus”. The sparse and plaintive “Agnus Dei” brings a contrasting mood of reflection, before a “Lux aeterna” in which darkness and light struggle with each other for supremacy. The “Libera me”, which ends the work, recalls elements of the “Dies Irae”. An extended fugue leads to a devastating climax, and the final two-fold ‘Libera me’ is a prayer as much for the living as for the dead.

An all-Italian cast of stellar soloists and one of Italy’s foremost operatic conductors give an authoritative – and exhilarating – performance of this dramatic masterpiece.

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