Verdi: Requiem (CD & DVD)

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LABELS: BR Klassik/ Arthaus Musik
WORKS: Requiem
PERFORMER: Krassimira Stoyanova (soprano), Marina Prudenskaja (mezzo), Saimir Pirgu (tenor), Orlin Anastassov (bass); Bavarian Radio Symphony Chorus & Orchestra/Mariss Jansons
CATALOGUE NO: CD: 900126 86:23 mins (2 discs); DVD: 102 205; Blu-ray: 108 136


Verdi’s Requiem is a religious choral work that partakes, in some senses, of operatic devices to make its points – an approach that inspired criticism in narrow-minded individuals when it was new. Performed by the Bavarian Radio Choir and Symphony Orchestra at their home in Munich in October 2013 under Mariss Jansons, this CD version of a much recorded piece has many strengths, yet without quite reaching the topmost rung. The opening Kyrie sets the mood – it’s steady, though with some sense of motion. The Dies Irae again possesses momentum but in a rather contained way; though there’s a particularly fearsome bass drum on display, the offstage brass effects register somewhat dimly, and a true sense of apocalyptic threat has gone missing.

Though the choir is a disciplined body, with some subtlety of choral approach, an ideally greater range of colour is needed to encompass the biggest moments, and at times more sheer power; the fact that the recording itself could do with more depth and clarity also detracts from its impact. To take the Sanctus as an example, it’s done with spirit, but not quite enough brilliance of attack or perfect neatness of execution.

That said, the soloists form a worthwhile and generally high quality quartet. Krassimira Stoyanova’s soprano is even and expressive, and she brings real urgency to proceedings with the Lux aeterna and the Libera me. Marina Prudenskaja’s rich and powerful mezzo avoids any crude effects and she produces steady, lovely tone throughout; highlights of the set include her solo at ‘Liber scriptus’ and her duets with Stoyanova, notably the Agnus Dei. Tenor Saimir Pirgu supplies bold and bracing vocalism and he creates a particularly positive impression with the Ingemisco and with his delicate mezza voce at the beginning of the Hostias, while Orlin Anastassov’s solid and stentorian bass is all present and correct, even if worthy in expression rather than commanding.

The DVD was recorded in the glamorous setting of the Golden Hall in Vienna’s Musikverein, also in 2013. Mariss Jansons draws a performance of fluidity and wide dynamic range from his visiting Bavarian forces, as well as supplying generally lucid textures. His is, though, a rather contained approach to a work that frequently benefits from an open-hearted Latinate response to its dramatic extremes: here the Dies Irae is no headlong rush but on the contrary steady, even contained. While the orchestral playing throughout is of a high order and the choir generally disciplined, more sheer virtuosity is really required in the Sanctus, which feels on the staid side: keener clarity and focus are ideally needed. As with the CD, the soloists are pretty impressive and on the whole form a well balanced quartet.

The filming is a bit dull, though you will get a more detailed picture on the Blu-ray version as compared to the DVD. A wide range of camera angles has been used – the brass bands positioned within the balcony for the Tuba Mirum are briefly noticed – but the filming doesn’t invariably focus on the matter in hand. All in all, a more than respectable Requiem, though not quite a great one.


George Hall