Haydn, Mozart: Requiem in D minor, K626; Ave verum corpus, K618; Insanae et vanae curae

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3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Haydn,Mozart
LABELS: Warner
WORKS: Requiem in D minor, K626; Ave verum corpus, K618; Insanae et vanae curae
PERFORMER: Carys Lane (soprano), Frances Bourne (mezzo-soprano), Paul Badley (tenor), Matthew Brook (bass); Tenebrae, COE/ Nigel Short
CATALOGUE NO: 2564-60191-2
If you heard this Requiem in the concert hall, you’d probably be impressed. But in this most recorded of choral works, a good professional performance is not quite enough. Ex-King’s Singer Nigel Short has assembled a fine chorus, even if you are sometimes aware of a mix of ‘straight’ and more fruitily operatic voices; and more than once, the muscular tenors sound as if they are auditioning en masse for Siegfried. That said, some of the more vigorous and dramatic movements come off well: the Kyrie fugue, for instance, combines urgency, power and dancing clarity of articulation; the ‘Dies irae’ sears and scorches; and the opening of the ‘Rex tremendae’ is as grimly minatory as you will hear. The orchestra plays alertly throughout, using modern instruments (except for the scything valveless trumpets and dry, cracking timpani) with a fair sense of period style. Less convincing are some of the more contemplative choral sections and the solo movements. The final part of the ‘Rex tremendae’, for instance, is exaggeratedly drawn-out, and the ‘Hostias’ drags. A slightly coarse, would-be Italianate tenor apart, the young soloists sing pleasantly enough on their own. But blend – and occasionally tuning – can be a problem in the ‘Recordare’ and ‘Benedictus’, both of which are short on tenderness and subtlety. Of the bonus items, Ave verum receives a reverent, Romantic reading, while the splendid Haydn motet is excitingly full-blooded in the ‘storm’ sections, but ultra-slow and sleepy in the contrasting visions of calm. The recorded balance is well-judged, with a vivid choral presence yet plenty of orchestral detail (basset-horns and bassoons nicely prominent in the Requiem). If you’re looking for a version of the standard Süssmayr completion of the Requiem on modern instruments, I’d still recommend the powerful, noble performance from Marriner (Philips), whose soloists are in a different class from those on the new disc. For a starker, rawer period-instrument recording, go for Herreweghe (Harmonia Mundi) or the even more thrillingly dramatic Gardiner. Richard Wigmore

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