PERFORMER: Christiane Libor (soprano), Ewa Wolak (alto), Daniel Kirch (tenor), Janusz Monarch (bass); Warsaw Philharmonic Choir & Orchestra/Antoni Wit
CATALOGUE NO: 8.572874-75
Dvorák took on the composition of his Requiem Mass for the 1891 Birmingham Festival with profound seriousness. Expectations were high after the success of his Stabat Mater and the Spectre’s Bride. Dvorák, with so much already achieved, had reached a watershed in his career. His intention was to produce a work of great depth and vision, and in many ways he succeeded. The Introit, Recordare, Offertorium and Agnus Dei contain some of the most stirring and beautiful music he wrote for chorus and soloists. The entire work is held together, in strongly symphonic fashion, by a poignant chromatic motif, heard at the start, which underpins much of the meaning of the text and appears at significant moments such as the Tuba Mirum, but capturing the motif’s dramatic weight without making it sound overly repetitive is a hard task.
Antoni Wit shapes the haunting opening beautifully and, throughout, the orchestral contribution is a compelling aspect of this performance. The chorus, however, in particular the men, could be more incisive and they are not helped by an unfavourable recorded balance. As disappointing is the quartet of soloists: all fine singers, but none of them makes the best of their expressive opportunities, and the tenor often tries to push Wit’s tempos, which are mostly well judged apart from a sluggish Offertorium. Their performance of the Recordare – the emotional heart of the Dies Irae – seems almost routine. Overall, this is a very mixed reading and nowhere approaches the intensity of Mariss Jansons and the Concertgebouw’s recording (RCO Live).