Requiem; Biblical Songs; Te Deum
Ailyn Pérez, Christianne Stotijn, Michael Spyres, Jan Martínik et al (voices); Prague Philharmonic Choir; Czech Philharmonic/Jiri Belohlavek & Jakub Hrůša
Decca 485 0509 141:12 mins
This fine recording presents three works from the 1890s: Dvořák’s magisterial Requiem; the Te Deum, written to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the ‘discovery’ of North America; and orchestrated versions of his ten Biblical Songs, which are usually heard with piano accompaniment.
Jakub Hrůša’s performance of the Requiem is darkly dramatic and ferociously committed. Every aspect of this recording leaps into life. The soloists are characterful, with heartfelt and clear delivery of the texts. The orchestra glows with textural richness, from the silky, emollient strings to the penetrating, incisive wind and brass. The mighty, slightly old-fashioned choral sound is well-balanced across the whole, massive soundscape, even if it is occasionally woolly. ‘Confutatis maledictis’ shakes the listener to the core.
The Biblical Songs are slightly more wooden and the orchestra, led by Jiří Bělohlávek, is rather too claggy and un-transparent for these small pieces. The singing is also less supple than the intimate prayers demand. But the Te Deum, conducted by Hrůša, ratchets things up with its exuberant opening, perfectly balanced by the tenderness and fleetness of the inner movements. Soloists Kateřina Kněžikova and Svatopluk Sem are outstanding in this recording; the final movement ‘Dignare, Domine’ brings the whole experience to an unforgettably exciting and satisfying close.