Composers: Verdi
Compositions: Arias
Performers: Orchestre Métropolitain/
Yannick Nézet-Séguin
Catalogue Number: DG 4836096

Russian bass Ildar Abdrazakov’s all-Verdi recital disc is a winner. An exciting showcase for his glamorous basso cantate instrument, the qualities we associate with true Verdian singing are all there: security of tone, expansiveness of breath, rhythmic acuity and vocal control. Throw in Abdrazakov’s innate stylistic and linguistic refinement, plus his easy high notes and emphasis on dramatic expression, and you’ve got yourself the whole package.

Try the opening excerpt from Attila on for size. Sung with plenty of thrust but zero strain, the bass has an immediate vocal presence that demands one’s attention. Attila’s dream scene encompasses moments of both vulnerability and power, while the cabaletta is dispatched with a blazing conviction that’s always underpinned by scrupulous musicianship.

Abdrazakov’s gift for expressive nuance runs throughout, firmly on show in Philip’s great aria from Don Carlo. Aristocratic in both vocal approach and emotional restraint, it’s a rivetingly inward account that blossoms into an existential cry, the bass managing to sound both powerful and completely deflated within a single phrase. This quality is also apparent in Il lacerato spirito, Abdrazakov exhibiting an authoritative severity mixed with deep sorrow. With firm, resonant tone, the pathos and grandeur of the mourning patriarch in Simon Boccanegra is fully brought across.

Though the role of the Hebrew high priest Zaccaria sits a little low for him, the bass more than makes up for it with his interpretive gifts. In sonorous voice, he easily summons up the implacability and religious fervour required of the first act aria, while the prayer Tu sul labbro is delivered with a creamy legato and haunting mezza voce. The bass is simply a joy to listen to – put on L’orror del tradimento from Oberto for an example of authentic Verdian weight and amplitude, or O tu, Palermo for elegance of line and vocal authority.

His voice attains a snarl in Walter’s tormented solo in Luisa Miller, menace undergirding the suavity of his phrasing. Similarly fuelled by vengeance, but entirely distinct in feeling is Infelice!… e tuo credevi from Ernani, which pinballs between despair, grief and resolution. Come dal ciel precipita catches him in burnished voice, tone firmly knitted to the text in this aria of deep foreboding. Yannick Nézet-Séguin and the Orchestre Métropolitain de Montréal prove themselves inspired partners.