Berlioz: Requiem

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

LABELS: RCA Victor Red Seal
WORKS: Requiem
PERFORMER: Vinson Cole (tenor)Tanglewood Festival Chorus, Boston SO/Seiji Ozawa
CATALOGUE NO: 09026 62544 2 DDD
Although Berlioz was not a good Catholic, his Requiem is best heard in church; the music is in some sense ‘about’ space and time, literal and eschatological. Ozawa recorded it in a concert hall and, regrettably, that is how it sounds; more lucid than numinous. It is good to hear so much detail, particularly in the bass and middle registers of the orchestra. The chorus sings accurately and strongly without optimum bite in a work which benefits from taking the odd risk. Vinson Cole voices the repeat of the Sanctus so exquisitely that I wish he could have returned to eliminate excessive portamento in the first statement; but this movement comes off well, as does the marvellous Offertorium, except for one missed pianissimo. Unfortunately, this is not the only failure of dynamic nuance. Berlioz makes his points by contrast, and curiously enough the famous brass bands are (relatively) not loud enough. A rare moment of drama is the accelerando in ‘Rex tremendae’, otherwise Ozawa smoothes the divisions in the Sequence (the five movements from ‘Dies irae’ to ‘Lacrymosa’), accelerating slower and retarding faster tempi. Other tempi are well judged, but overall this Requiem has more flow than atmosphere. Julian Rushton