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René Jacobs gives a ‘bold, innovative and passionate’ interpretation of Mozart’s Requiem

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

Requiem (Süssmayr/Dutron completion)
Sophie Karthäuser (soprano), Marie-Claude Chappuis (alto), Maximilian Schmitt (tenor), Johannes Weisser (bass); RIAS Kammerchor; Freiburger Barockorchester/René Jacobs
Harmonia Mundi HMM 902291

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Bold, innovative and passionate, René Jacobs’s new reading of Mozart’s Requiem towers above the crowd. Pierre-Henri Dutron’s new completion of this famously unfinished score illuminates how Mozart was re-forging his musical language in the year he died to make it tauter and deeper, yet more transparent. So forceful are Mozart’s ideas that they regenerate themselves even in the completion by Franz Xaver Süssmayr, which Dutron adapts to realise more fully Mozart’s new procedures.

By the time of his death, Mozart had only completed the Introit of his Requiem. For the next seven movements we have Mozart’s particella score – vocal lines, partially figured bass, hints at orchestration – until bar eight of the restless, brooding Lacrimosa. The Sanctus, Benedictus and Agnus Dei are wholly Süssmayr’s invention. Dutron drastically alters Süssmayr, while rendering more vivid the scoring that Mozart implied.

The opening growl of bass woodwinds alerts us to this Requiem’s new sound world. What in Süssmayr’s new movements had been smooth petitions become, under Dutron’s pen, jagged protests. Single lines, solo or ensemble, jostle in complex exchanges fitted to the pre-existing harmonic progressions, newly shorn of clutter. Instead of chords, the driver of all three movements is now a linear interplay whose outlines derive from, but are unlike, their original. Choir members are the virtuosos here. Their flexibility enables them to enrich or bleach vocal colour, and flood or dry up volume levels, to the subtlest degree. Jacobs plays the choir like an instrument, as he does the band. The shapes he coaxes from words, and the force he provokes from the ensemble, open out the new dimensions of Dutron’s score.

Berta Joncus

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Listen to an excerpt from this recording here.