Pavarotti's greatest recordings

Gramophone Wed 21st June 2017

An unmistakeable voice, thrilling for its purity and power – here are just a few of Luciano Pavarotti's finest recordings

This article includes links to reviews in the Gramophone Reviews Database, which contains more than 45,000 reviews. To find out more about subscribing to the database, please visit: gramophone.co.uk/subscribe

Donizetti La fille du régiment

Sutherland; Bonynge

Decca

“…the most spectacular of Luciano Pavarotti’s contributions, his brief but important solo in the finale to Act 1, which – so far as I remember – was the specific piece which prompted the much-advertised boast ‘King of the High Cs’” Edward Greenfield (11/86)

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Donizetti La favorita

Cotrubas, Cossotto; Bonynge

Decca

“His singing is phenomenal. Wherever you care to test it, it responds…In ‘Spirto gentil’ the quiet start, poised and well phrased, works towards intensified but unexaggerated emotion, a beautifully even descent on ‘ahimè’ (no aspirates) to the reprise of the melody…the finely controlled quiet ending has its own beauty.” John Steane (10/90)

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Mascagni L’amico Fritz

Freni; Gavazzeni

Warner Classics

“When Freni sang Suzel and Pavarotti Fritz, they were ideally suited to these roles…Pavarotti strikes just the right note of eager ardour as he gradually falls in love with Suzel after averring that he is impervious to the emotion. He shades his part with elegiac accent and winning pianissimos.” Alan Blyth (8/87)

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Mozart Idomeneo

Pritchard

Decca 

“Pavarotti is Idomeneo: enough said. His is a deeply committed performance, revealing the king’s greatness of heart and his just raging in a larger-than-life portrait.” Hilary Finch (4/88)

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Puccini La bohème

Freni; Karajan

Decca

“…Pavarotti’s Rodolfo, in Karajan’s reading for Decca, is perhaps the best thing he has ever done…Pavarotti’s honest sincerity counts for a great deal: his pride as he declares his vocation as a poet, the desperate feigning of his ‘Mimì e una civetta’ are points that most tenors miss or treat as mere opportunities for a big sing. His latter-day image may sometimes tend to hide it, but this recording is a reminder that Pavarotti is an artist of intelligence and delicacy as well as splendour of voice.” Michael Oliver (11/87)

Reviews Database: read the original Gramophone review

 

Puccini Turandot

Sutherland, Caballé; Mehta

Decca

“Coming so soon after his fine assumption of the roles of the Duke in Rigoletto and Rodolfo in La bohème, this performance sets the seal on his expanded reputation. He deliberately uses a tougher tone which is obviously appropriate for a more dramatic part. The top A in his final cry of ‘Turandot!’ at the end of Act 1 is thrillingly trumpet-like, where the earlier ‘Non piangere Liù’ brings a beautifully judged performance.” Edward Greenfield (09/73)

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Verdi Un ballo in maschera

M Price; Solti

Decca

“Riccardo has always been one of Pavarotti’s happiest roles. He responds willingly to a part that calls for virile, sensual singing of an overtly emotional kind, and that plaintive quality in his tone is also what Riccardo ideally requires. As he has here been caught in resplendent voice and in a mood sensitive to most of Verdi’s dynamic markings, he can be heard to fulfil the lightness required for his Barcarolle, the impassioned attack called for by the love duet, the tremendous outpouring of passion required by the scene before the ball.” Alan Blyth (9/85)

Reviews Database: read the original Gramophone review

 

Verdi Otello

Te Kanawa, Nucci; Solti

Decca

“Forget all the hype, forget the larger-than-life figure of outdoor events, listen to the sincere and serious musician captured here as Otello…like his noble predecessor [Martinelli], Pavarotti achieves the illusion of power through the focus of his tone, its incisive quality and, above all, by his precise attention to note and word values. Few Otellos since Martinelli have enunciated the text with such beauty and meaning.” Alan Blyth (11/91)

Reviews Database: read the original Gramophone review

 

Verdi Requiem

Studer, Zajick, Ramey; Muti

Warner Classics

“Many will probably buy the recording for Pavarotti so I am happy to assure them that he is in his best, most persuasive form, more individual and subtle in utterance (listen to his many shades of colour in the ‘Ingemisco’)…” Alan Blyth (11/87)

Reviews Database: read the original Gramophone review

 

Verdi Rigoletto

Sutherland, Milnes; Bonynge

Decca

“May I say straight away that quite apart from the splendid contributions of Sutherland and Milnes, Pavarotti’s Duke has a special flair with free and characterful vocalising which is one of the great strengths of the set…On his very first entry in the opening scene, even before ‘Questa o quella’, there is a hint of a chuckle in Pavarotti’s voice that is something of a Gigli quality. Here is an unmistakable rogue but an unmistakable charmer, too. At once the character is believable, which indeed says much in this opera.” Edward Greenfield (05/73)

Reviews Database: read the original Gramophone review

 

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