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Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Inter natos mulierum, K 72 (1771) [5:09]
Misericordias Domini, K 222 (1775) [6:09]
Requiem, K 626 (completed by Franz Xaver Süssmayr) (1791) [41:03]
Miriam Allen (soprano), Anne Buter (mezzo), Marcus Ullmann (tenor), Martin Snell (bass)
GewandhausKammerchor, Leipziger Kammerorchester/Morten Schuldt-Jensen
rec. 10-12 November 2004, Grosser Saal des Gewandhauses, Leipzig.
Plus bonus disc of ‘Great Choral Classics’ by J.S. Bach, Beethoven, Berlioz, Handel, Mozart, Rossini, Szymanowski, Tippett, Vanhal
NAXOS 8.557728 [52:21 + 71:29]


This is a pleasant, and unobjectionable account of the Requiem, but one needs more than that to make a performance of this fascinating work truly memorable and special.

Choosing a recording of the Requiem nowadays is becoming almost as complicated as ordering a sandwich and a coffee in some of the more pretentious coffee shops that have sprung up in recent years. There are just as many questions to answer. Would you like your Requiem prepared by Süssmayr? Or by Richard Maunder or Robbins Landon? Or perhaps by Robert Levin, Franz Beyer or Duncan Druce? Would you like period-instruments with your Requiem, or would you prefer modern ones? How big an orchestra/choir would you like?

What is served up on this new Naxos recording is the completion by Sussmayr, sung by a small choir and played by a small orchestra on modern instruments but performed in a fashion which shows an awareness of the examples provided by the authentic movement. There’s evidence of this in its employment of rapid tempos - perhaps just a bit too rapid in places, such as the Tuba mirum - and crisp rhythms, and the limited use of vibrato.

The performance has honesty and intimacy, but lacks the spirituality and gravitas - which is not just a matter of numbers - that one finds in the very best performances. The choral singing is generally good, the orchestral playing nimble, the winds and brass particularly effective. The soloists work well together, and though none of them are especially striking or memorable when their turn in the limelight comes round, they acquit themselves quite successfully.

For all of this, this performance leaves me relatively unmoved, sends few shivers down the spine. It is music-making of considerable competence but, to my ears at least, it lacks real fire, magic, inspiration or whatever term one uses for that indefinable quality which transcends even the highest degree of competence. 

The Requiem is prefaced by good performances of two of Mozart’s shorter liturgical works, one (K 72) written in Salzburg, the other (K 222) in Munich. The later of these deserves to be better known than it is. It was praised by Giovanni Battista Martini, the Franciscan composer with whom the young Mozart had become acquainted in Bologna. Martini, in a letter written in December 1776 found in Misericordias Domini “all that is required by Modern Music; good harmony, mature modulation, a moderate pace in the violins, a natural connexion of the parts and good taste”. He was right. And we, with the advantage of hindsight, can hear in its dramatic pages anticipations of the even finer music Mozart would go on to write.

This Naxos issue has good notes by Keith Anderson and full texts and translations. It was an especially good idea to include in the track-listings a clear indication of the contributions made by Mozart and Sussmayr to each movement.

Glyn Pursglove

see also Reviews by Robert Hugill and Göran Forsling


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