Mozart: Requiem; Masonic Funeral Music; Adagio, K411

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LABELS: Glossa
WORKS: Requiem; Masonic Funeral Music; Adagio, K411
PERFORMER: Mona Julsrud (soprano), Wilke Te Brummelstroete (alto), Zeger Vandersteene (tenor), Jelle Draijer (bass); Netherlands Chamber Choir, Orchestra of the Eighteenth Century/Frans Brüggen
This live recording (complete with coughing) commemorates a tour of Japan. The programme was given uninterrupted, although the pieces are unconnected in date, style, and the occasions which gave them birth. The funereal Masonic pieces, two of Mozart’s most original and mysterious shorter works, are welcome despite a rasping third basset-horn in K411. Plainsong precedes and punctuates the Requiem; the two longer chants use the words Mozart set, so what is the point? The notes provide no explanation; it is surely not contemporary performing practice, and is curiously inconsistent with employment of the expert early-instrument ensemble. The familiar Süssmayr completion is used, and so I make no comparison with versions such as Norrington’s performance of Duncan Druce’s version. William Christie and Les Arts Florissants operate in a drier acoustic, and while his performance has interpretative similarities to Brüggen’s, the Erato recording is noticeably better balanced and the texture less confused. Plainsong notwithstanding, Brüggen’s objectives are dramatic, even sensationalistic: he rushes into the Dies Irae after barely a moment’s pause, with trumpets belching and drums furiously attacked. This performance is not for those who like their Requiems contemplative; tempi are generally fast, notably in the Offertory, which then accelerates for ‘Quam olim Abrahae’, and the too agitated ‘Recordare’. The soloists are uneven: the soprano’s ‘Te decet hymnus’ attempts choir-boy serenity, the tenor has operatic tendencies, the bass scarcely competes with the solo trombone. For a recording, the achievement falls short of the imaginative intention; Christie is more thoughtful and satisfying. Julian Rushton