Schumann: Requiem in D flat, Op. 148; Der Königssohn; Nachtlied

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COMPOSERS: Schumann
LABELS: Hanssler
WORKS: Requiem in D flat, Op. 148; Der Königssohn; Nachtlied
PERFORMER: Sibylla Rubens (soprano), Ingeborg Danz (mezzo-soprano), Christoph Prégardien (tenor), Adolph Seidel (baritone), Yorck Felix Speer (bass-baritone); Saarbrücken Chamber Choir; German Radio Philharmonic Orchestra Saarbrücken Kaiserslautern/Georg Grün Leitung
CATALOGUE NO: Hänssler 93.270

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To hear such contrasted late Schumann works as the Requiem and Der Königssohn side by side is fascinating. The latter is a bold, extrovert adaptation of a Romantic ballad, ending with a triumph – not only for the King’s Son of the title, but also for the spirit of poetry. But before this rousing quasi-operatic experience comes what must be the least theatrical setting of the Mass for the Dead in the 19th-century repertoire. Not for Schumann the apocalyptic drama of the Berlioz and Verdi settings. Fauré’s famously gentle Requiem manages more anguish than this. The mood of the luscious opening prayer for eternal rest dominates the rest of the work – even whole stretches of the ‘Dies irae’. That, it has to be said, is a trifle disconcerting: if the composer of the agitated middle section of Nachtlied felt so unmoved by the medieval depictions of apocalyptic terrors, why did he set them at all? Why not leave them out, as Fauré did? So much of the Requiem is beautiful – solo team, chorus and the orchestra make the most of the sumptuous church acoustic.

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It would be interesting to hear what John Eliot Gardiner might make of this – his wonderful Nachtlied certainly manages more angst amid the nocturnal rapture – but until he takes it on, this will certainly do. And this version of Nachtlied  will leave no one in doubt that this choral-orchestral miniature is a significant find. Der Königssohn is similarly enjoyable, even if one is left feeling that the driving force could have been turned up a volt or two. Stephen Johnson