Tuesday, October 5, 2021

Underrated Classical Musicians: Eliahu Inbal II

 So there are three Don Carlo's on youtube from Abbado in '68, Inbal in '69, and Levine in '71. Right at the beginning of their careers. All three of them are great, and all with magnificent casts you could never find today, but play certain parts of them back to back, and Inbal, by far the least celebrated, is easily the most idiomatic. Levine, as all through his career, backs his considerable grasp of the Verdi idiom with a weird amount of of Remington steel. Abbado is also great, but he's weirdly manic for the most understated of all maestrissimi - at times he can even sound like Muti (albeit better...); but just as in Mahler, Inbal is the most accomplished and perceptive of the three. The Verona orchestra sounds like Verdi in a way Abbado can't even get La Scala to sound.

Inbal simply inhabits Verdi authentically, follows the singers without making a fetish of it, and gives us the 'why' of every note as well as the what, with rubato that is always present but never exaggerated. The orchestral attacks are deliberately spread out rather than precisely on the beat, Inbal is exactly with the singers but not to the point that it sounds regimented. Orchestral sound is transparent, but not fetishistically so. The virtuoso runs in the strings sound not like a digital reproduction of notes but, as they should, like a flying smear. The performance simply glows, or better yet, smolders, with the fire of an auto da fe.
Don Carlo is not a natural sell for me - so many of its plot devices are incredibly stupid and a lot of numbers don't need to be there, but we should expect Jewish musicians to reserve a special amount of devotion to an opera about the Spanish Inquisition that takes it seriously. Very few performances conjure this sepulchral vividness of the oppressive state and the chiaroscuro inherent in fanaticism's hold on entire centuries. Inbal has, one and all, great soloists (I said what I said), but it is Inbal who sets the tone here, and in his early 30s creates something that equals the greats of any generation.


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