Hardly a well known name outside of Russia, or select circles of people devoted to spectacular sopranos of the past. Galina Vishnevskaya was born in St. Petersburg [Leningrad at that time] in 1926. Made her concert debut in 1944 and was married to the cellist Mstislav Rostropovich from 1955 until his death earlier this year.
I first encountered a recording by Galina Vishnevskaya, singing songs by Tchaikovsky, while a high school student in 1950. One selection in particular, ‘None But The Lonely Heart’ [Нет, только тот, кто знал in Russian] appealed to my romantic, adolescent and occasionally melancholic, Slavic soul and I nearly drove my family crazy by playing it day and night. More importantly I recognized that her voice was a very special one.
A few years later, while in college, I encountered the imported Monitor [USSR] recording of Verdi’s ‘Requiem’ with Igor Markevich conducting the USSR State Philharmonic Orchestra and with Galina Vishnevskaya as the lead soprano. A superb recording which was released in 1961, and her very Slavic rendition of the ‘Liber scriptus’ is absolutely unique and wonderful.
Liber scriptus proferetur,
in quo totum continetur,
unde mundus judicetur.
Lo! the book exactly worded,
Wherein all hath been recorded,
Thence shall judgment be awarded.
Yesterday I discovered that this recording is now available in CD format, from Amazon.com, although now as an import from Japan, now on the Phillips label. I continue to be reminded that some of the most impressive musical works of the past, long since dropped from the American recording market, return via the musically aware Japanese.
And as long as I am on the subject of Verdi’s Requiem, might as well mention that I consider it one of the greatest of the choral masterpieces. I have two recordings, both of which I enjoy immensely — the 1986 reissue of the superb 1960s EMI ‘Messa da Requiem’ with Carlo Maria Guilini conducting the Philharmonia Orchestra of London with Elizabeth Schwarzkopf, Crista Ludwig, Nicolai Gedda, and Nicolai Ghiaurov. An absolutely outstanding and stellar performance in one of the most outstanding of the many Verdi Requiem recordings.
The second is with Valentin Radu conducting the Ama Deus Ensemble, with Tatyana Galitskaya, Tatyana Rashkovsky, Kenneth Garner, and Ed Bara. The Ama Deus Ensemble was founded in Philadelphia by Valentin Radu in 1991, on the occasion of the Mozart Bicentennial, and which since 1987 has specialized in authentic performances of vocal and instrumental music of the fifteenth through eighteenth centuries. I have been aware of Ama Deus recordings primarily because of their exquisite Mozart works. The Ama Deus Verdi Requiem CD was only released last month, and how it so quickly found its way to a CD/DVD shop that I frequent here in Chiang Mai is anyone’s guess. . .