Biber: Requiem; plus works by Bernhard, Fux and JM Nicolai
Vox Luminis; Freiburger Barockconsort/Lionel Meunier
Alpha Classics ALPHA665 72:08 mins
The centrepiece of this disc – Biber’s F minor Requiem – is a work of plangent beauty and kaleidoscopic colours, timbres and textures. The performers here underscore the work’s emotional antitheses in an account by turns dramatic, serene, vehement, hushed, disconsolate, resigned. Though there are versions that have a weightier choral sound, the advantage of this one is that the Requiem’s words (which so fuelled the composer’s creative imagination) and all the details of Biber’s complex musical tapestry cut through with glassy clarity. Intense but never histrionic, the performance captures the work’s power and its intimacy.
We’re also treated to a clutch of superb but little-known pieces by Biber’s contemporaries. In two motets by Christoph Bernhard (works which fuse the intricate sobriety of Renaissance polyphony with Italian Baroque lyricism), the performers balance clean and lucid timbres with pliant expressivity. While in Johann Joseph Fux’s Omnis terra adoret, the mixed ensemble is beautifully balanced – not least by Alpha’s recording engineers. The singers are very much part of the instrumental consort so the threads of Fux’s musical texture all weave together in a diaphanous fabric. Finally, sonatas by Fux and Johann Michael Nicolai showcase the supple finesse of the Freiburg players.
Read more reviews of the latest Biber recordings