Mozart: Requiem

COMPOSERS: Mozart
LABELS: DG
ALBUM TITLE: Mozart
WORKS: Requiem
PERFORMER: Sibylla Rubens (soprano), Lioba Braun (alto), Steve Davislim (tenor), Georg Zeppenfeld (bass); Chor des Bayerischen Rundfunks; Münchner Philharmoniker/Christian Thielemann
CATALOGUE NO: 477 5797
Christian Thielemann’s live version of the Requiem from the Munich Philharmonie with his regular Munich orchestra is apparently his first Mozart recording, and while there really is nothing wrong with a traditional approach, if well done, there’s a sense here of something dutiful rather than inspired. Interestingly, he’s chosen the more time-honoured if widely criticised edition by Mozart’s assistant Süssmayr, rather than explore any of the recent alternatives, and the use of a substantial choir and modern orchestra doesn’t show much interest in any lessons to be learned from the period-instrument movement. Accompanimental figures (notably at ‘Confutatis maledictis’) can be curiously anonymous, with contrasts blunted and balance occasionally wayward. The result is a lack of precise emotional definition in the performance as a whole. The choral singing is also somewhat heavy, with the sound quality not compensating for the thick textures.

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On the plus side, Thielemann conveys well the overall mood of solemnity, and there’s a sense of rhythmic pulse and harmonic direction, even if a seeming lack of momentum at times allows some of the music’s tension and anxiety to leach away. The soloists nonetheless form a serviceable quartet, with a particularly graceful tenor line from Steve Davislim, though they are not recorded with much immediacy.

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Best of traditional Süssmayr versions is arguably Harnoncourt’s, with Concentus Musicus Wien on Deutsche Harmonia Mundi. Of other editions, Robert D Levin’s version has won the advocacy of Sir Charles Mackerras, whose version with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra shows an exemplary sense of style. George Hall