Mozart: Requiem

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

LABELS: Sony Vivarte
WORKS: Requiem
PERFORMER: Marina Ulewicz (soprano), Barbara Hölzl (mezzo), Jörg Hering (tenor), Harry van der Kamp (bass); Tölz Boys Choir, Tafelmusik/Bruno Weil
Even by the standard of period instrument bands, Tafelmusik produces a very bright, forward sound, and that, coupled with the fast, almost jaunty tempo for the opening chorus, gets the Requiem off to a far from funereal start. In his recording report last month, William Whitehead referred to the lusty unmannered singing and playing, and that brings freshness to the score, but leaves some uneven passages that could irritate on repeated listening: the tendency to rush, which disturbs the ensemble in the Dies irae, or the opening of the Recordare, for instance. The soloists are well-matched, in the sense that they have individual personalities and vocal colours which set each other in relief, rather than blend into a homogeneous mush. I particularly enjoyed the forthright sound and approach of Harry van der Kamp in the Dies irae, and the affection for the words displayed by Marina Ulewicz. The chorus doesn’t fare quite as well: when they are in their mid- to low register, they tend to be masked by the orchestra, and high notes in the sopranos are not always in tune. But it all comes down to what you expect from this piece: is it a natural expression of mourning, or an excuse for a slick, polished, modern gloss on what we think mourning is, or might have been 200 years ago? If the first, then you’ll want to hear it only occasionally, and the openness of this performance will appeal. It also, though almost incidentally, reveals the greatness of the work. Martin Cotton