WORKS: Mozart: Requiem
PERFORMER: Elizabeth Watts (soprano), Phyllis Pancella (mezzo-soprano), Andrew Kennedy (tenor), Eric Owens (bass-baritone), Robert Nairn (double bass obbligato); Handel and Haydn Society/Harry Christophers
CATALOGUE NO: COR 16093
This live recording of the Requiem (in its standard completion by Mozart’s assistant, Süssmayr) includes two fillers. The first, the short motet Ave verum corpus, is unexceptional. Unusually, however, it’s followed by a spoken introduction by double-bass player Robert Nairn, who then performs his obbligato in the concert aria ‘Per questa bella mano’, alongside bass-baritone Eric Owens.
There’s nothing disrespectful about the juxtaposition. All three pieces date from Mozart’s last year and putting them together shows more of the variety of his creativity at this time. But it still feels rather odd.
Owens sings the aria decently, though not with great character. He’s more successful in the Requiem, where his instrument sounds magisterial as it rolls along, matching well with the remaining three soloists. Elizabeth Watts is a luminous soprano. Phyllis Pancella can rely on the almost contralto-like qualities of her mezzo. Andrew Kennedy’s strong tenor makes a direct human appeal.
The choir, too, is well blended and nicely balanced, negotiating the fast passages with impressive neatness. Orchestral playing is both vivid and disciplined, and Harry Christophers maintains a keen sense of direction. This recording comes within hailing distance of the best, including Sir Charles Mackerras’s noble account of Robert D Levin’s edition on the Linn label. George Hall