Dvorák: Requiem, Op. 89

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3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Dvorak
LABELS: LPO
WORKS: Requiem, Op. 89
PERFORMER: Lisa Milne (soprano), Karen Cargill (mezzo-soprano), Peter Auty (tenor), Peter Rose (bass); London Philharmonic Chorus & Orchestra/Neeme Järvi
CATALOGUE NO: LPO 0042

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Dvoπák’s monumental Requiem Mass was written for the Birmingham Festival of 1891. Composed after a period of considerable personal stress, his setting has both a depth and lyrical eloquence comparable to his great Stabat mater; indeed, in the magnificent concluding Agnus Dei he in many ways surpasses it.

Nevertheless, getting the balance between the Requiem’s frequently operatic rhetoric (the influence of Verdi occasionally hovers in the background) and Dvoπák’s highly symphonic approach to form in the work is not easy and, fine though this recording is from many points of view, it is by no means completely successful. Choice of tempo is key to getting the best out of many of these movements.

Neeme Järvi paces the opening Introit well and the Dies irae and ‘Quam olim Abrahae’ fugue have credible impetus. Elsewhere he is much less successful: the Tuba mirum is rather disjointed and the radiant orchestral prelude to the Offertorium is more or less thrown away.

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This is a pity since there is much care for instrumental detail and the solo singing is for the most part distinguished. The choir, while never ragged, sounds, in this recording, slightly underpowered. All the virtues of Järvi’s approach come together, however, in the Agnus Dei: beautifully paced and crafted, the performance captures superbly the radiance of Dvoπák’s vision of the hereafter. While it is certainly a welcome addition to a small field, this recording does not match that great Dvoπákian, István Kertész’s magnificent, and now vintage, recording on Decca. Jan Smaczny