Mozart: Requiem Realisations

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COMPOSERS: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
LABELS: King’s College Cambridge
ALBUM TITLE: Mozart: Requiem Realisations
WORKS: Requiem (ed. Süssmayr)l plus Realisations by Maunder, Druce, Levin and Finnissy; includes audio documentary
PERFORMER: Elin Manahan Thomas (soprano), Christine Rice (mezzo-soprano), James Gilchrist (tenor), Christopher Purves (bass-baritone); Choir of King’s College Cambridge; Academy of Ancient Music/Stephen Cleobury


Mozart’s Requiem seems destined to remain the most mysterious work by one of the greatest masters. Whom did he write it for? Himself? What should be done about this torso, some of it magnificent, some of it oddly jejune? The double CD box aims to tackle, if not to answer, these and other problems. One disc is devoted to expounding the background, the issues and the various attempts at solving some of the problems. It is usefully summarised in the booklet for those with microscopic sight who don’t want to hear the CD through again.

The other, main CD contains a complete recording of the traditional version, with Süssmayr’s reasonably convincing additions, followed by five ‘realisations’ by different musicians of the incomplete or uncomposed sections. The standard of the performance is high, so long as you want a liturgical version, one that might be used at a service. My own preference is for a more dramatic, ‘concert’ reading of this work, which is so largely bleak and desperate. But that is not the King’s style.

The soloists are mainly excellent, the unfortunate exception being the soprano Elin Manahan Thomas, who is shrill; she is the only soloist who has much to sing. You realise that vividly when the others are Christine Rice, James Gilchrist and Christopher Purves – magnificent artists who have very little indeed to do. This is an educative set, and it is interesting to listen to the alternative versions and Richard Maunder’s fugal ‘Amen’ chorus, but it doesn’t move me as much as I would expect Mozart’s Requiem to.


Michael Tanner