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Leonard Bernstein’s Mythical Recording of the Donizetti Requiem

available at Amazon
Gaetano Donizetti
Messa da requiem
Leonard Bernstein
P.Domingo, K.Ricciarelli, A.Baltsa,
S.Ramey, R.Lloyd
LA Phil, LA Master Chorale
DG 420 574-2

The Record that Wasn't

If you have ever done a reasonably thorough search for various recordings of the gorgeous but somewhat neglected Requiem Mass of Gaetano Donizetti’s, you might have come across a reference to a recording made in 1982, conducted by Leonard Bernstein, with a superlative cast of singers (Plácido Domingo, Katia Ricciarelli, Agnes Baltsa, Samuel Ramey and Robert Lloyd) with the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the Los Angeles Master Chorale. To have appeared on Deutsche Grammophon. It is even assigned a catalog number: “420 574-2”.

This all looks fairly plausible. Domingo has either recorded with these artists (Domingo, Baltsa, Ramey, Lloyd) or could have. The catalog number looks legit enough for the early 80s. But why is there no reference to be found to this album outside of Wikipedia, where it was listed among the available recordings for the Donizetti Requiem (since removed) and among the discographies of some of the alleged participants? And why isn’t there a cover of such a recording to be found in the vast vestiges of the internets?

The answer is simple enough: There never was such a recording. Nor is it an innocent switcharoo, perhaps mistaking Donizetti’s Requiem with an extant Bernstein recording Verdi’s. It’s a deliberate, clever, and reasonbably carefully constructed little joke that someone snuck in, almost an “Otto Jägermeier” of Wikipedia. One the one hand, it cost me a few hours of research and I don’t want to be a complete spoilsport, I thought I’d add the graphic element—the cover—to complete the illusion. So here it is. Enjoy the mischief.

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