Dvorak: Requiem & Symphony No. 8

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Dvorak
LABELS: RCO Live
WORKS: Requiem; Symphony No. 8
PERFORMER: Krassimira Stoyanova (soprano), Mihoko Fujimura (mezzo-soprano), Klaus Florian Vogt (tenor), Thomas Quasthoff (bass); Wiener Singverein; Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra/Mariss Jansons
CATALOGUE NO: RCO 10001 (hybrid CD/SACD)

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Written for the Birmingham Festival of 1891, Dvoπák’s Requiem Mass is a work of deep seriousness; indeed, Dvoπák considered it superior to his epic, highly affecting setting of the Stabat Mater. The Requiem is certainly more operatically conceived, but as a whole it does not quite have the burning integrity of the Stabat Mater.

Yet although it suffers from a tendency toward repetition and over emphasis, it often plumbs astonishing depths, notably in the Agnus Dei where Dvoπák balances ravishing lyricism with profound reflection in one of his most sublime utterances.

There is no perfect recording of the wok, though the interpretations of Ancerl and Kertész, both now vintage, set a high benchmark. Jansons’s reading is in their league. He clearly understands the dynamics of this strongly unified work and nearly everywhere his tempos are well judged. He is also very well served by superb choral singing and orchestral playing that clearly relishes the work’s many challenges.

The soloists are undoubtedly engaged, but while Klaus Florian Vogt’s tenor is attractive in tone it is a little too fragile for this role and Krassimira Stoyanova’s soprano is not always accurate. Nevertheless, this excellently recorded performance is highly recommendable. 

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Jansons’s reading of the Eighth Symphony is frustratingly mixed: the first two movements are a near ideal blend of volatility and poetry, unfortunately, the scherzo is rather leaden and the slower sections of the finale curiously self-indulgent. Of recent recordings of this work, Charles Mackerras with the Philharmonia (reviewed in March) remains the current favourite. Jan Smaczny