Decca Classics returns to the spiritual home of Italian opera for a landmark release featuring the orchestra and chorus of the Teatro alla Scala under Music Director Riccardo Chailly.

Following the acclaimed release of Verdi Choruses – awarded a 5* review by BBC Music Magazine and nominated for an International Classical Music Award – Riccardo Chailly again unites his La Scala forces with the music of Giuseppe Verdi.

The album presents a rare chance to hear rare music by Verdi written for the concert hall and church rather than the opera stage. It includes the composer’s intimate Four Sacred Pieces (Quattro pezzi sacri) and his dramatic celebration of European unity, Hymn of the Nations (Inno delle nazione).

Freddie de Tommaso becomes the first tenor to record the Hymn for Decca since Luciano Pavarotti.

Verdi’s regular collaborator, the librettist Arrigo Boito, supplied a text for the composer’s secular cantata for tenor, choir and orchestra Hymn of the Nations, written for the 1862 World Fair in London. The celebratory piece, in three movements, has all the drama of a Verdi opera scene and features a solo tenor emerging heroically from the choral and orchestral texture. It depicts the peace and unification of nations with particular reference to England, France and Italy, whose national anthems are included.

Riccado Chailly’s predecessor as music director of La Scala, Arturo Toscanini, introduced the audience at La Scala to Verdi’s Four Sacred Pieces in 1899. All four works pose a fascinating view of Verdi in the final decades of his life, writing in a sparer style but one rich with nuance. These works are meditations that carry with them an intimacy both devotional and moving.

After the success of his final opera Falstaff in 1893, Verdi began to withdraw from life as a celebrated Italian icon. In 1895, he wrote a setting of the Te Deum hymn for chorus and orchestra that combines delicacy with luminescence.

The following year, the composer turned to Jacoponi da Todi’s reflective text depicting the Virgin Mary mourning her crucified son, the Stabat Mater. Verdi’s score for chorus and orchestra – the last piece of music he wrote – reflects a mother’s grief but ends with a vision of paradise.

In 1898, Verdi’s publisher issued both those works in a set of four including two sacred pieces written earlier. Verdi had completed his a cappella setting of the Ave Maria in 1889, using an enigmatic scale and austere part writing to suggest distant voices. The fourth piece in Ricordi’s publication was Verdi’s Lauda alla Vergine written for a cappella female voices around 1890, in which the composer enshrined his admiration for the Italian polyphonic school of Palestrina and the delicacy of Bach’s B minor Mass, which he had recently been studying.

Riccardo Chailly’s appointment at La Scala in 2015 was seen as a homecoming for the conductor born in Milan. He made his conducting debut there in 1978, having served as Claudio Abbado’s assitant. The emotive sound of the theatre’s house musicians, its illustrious history with the music of Giuseppe Verdi and Chailly’s attention to detail are all brought to bear on this new release.

British-Italian tenor Freddie de Tommaso embodies an old school tradition combining innate lyricism with an heroic tone and a gift for musical storytelling. He signed to Decca in 2018 and his first album Passione saw him win the BBC Music Magazine Newcomer of the Year Award. His second album Il Tenore was nominated for an Opus Klassik Award and an International Classical Music Award as well as being named a Presto Album of the Year.

“Chorus and orchestra are both on their mettle here: the orchestral playing is clean and brilliant, the choral tone full and healthy.” – BBC Music Magazine (Verdi Choruses)

“Chailly is meticulous and pays attention to the fine details, drawing performances from the chorus that are always sonorous and tasteful.” – Gramophone (Verdi Choruses)

“His is indeed a splendid instrument, genuinely Italianate in tone and texture.” – Opera (on Freddie de Tommaso)