Magazine article Gramophone

Mozart's Requiem: Listens to the Latest Batch of Recordings of Mozart's Fascinating, Frustrating Unfinished Masterpiece

Magazine article Gramophone

Mozart's Requiem: Listens to the Latest Batch of Recordings of Mozart's Fascinating, Frustrating Unfinished Masterpiece

Article excerpt

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Luck and white-goods failures traditionally come in threes--and so, it seems, do recordings of Mozart's Requiem. Barely a month goes by without yet another landing on the Reviews Editor's desk; and it says much for this endlessly fascinating (and frustrating) work that pretty much every single one has some unique merit. Among standout offerings recently, John Butt's Gramophone Award-winning disc with the Dunedin Consort (Linn, 5/14) must take pride of place but mention should also be made of dramatic, interventionist readings from Leonardo Garcia Alarcon with French forces (Ambronay, 7/13) and Teodor Currentzis in Novosibirsk (Alpha, 8/11). Three comparisons, then, and three markedly different approaches--which can also be said without hesitation about these three new recordings.

In terms of approach, closest to Butt's conception is Laurence Equilbey with her crack chamber choir Accentus and the recently convened (2012) Insula Orchestra. There's a touch of the Currentzis outlook too, with the ticking of bow upon fingerboard in the 'Dies irae' and maximum drama wrought from the 'Tuba mirum'--no surprise given soloists of the operatic pedigree of Sandrine Piau, Sara Mingardo, Werner Gura and Christopher Purves. By ignoring Mozart's forte marking and starting piano, Equilbey makes the 'Kyrie' build compellingly to its climax, and this is balanced by a dark, louring reading of the 'Agnus Dei'. Sticking points for this Requiemophile include a failure to differentiate between two types of appoggiatura in the 'Tuba mirum' (notated as crotchets in the tenor solo, quavers in the alto); Piau's tendency to snatch at semiquavers at 'ne me perdas ilia die' in the 'Recordare'; and the double-dotting of rhythms in the 'Rex tremendae'--Mozart was quite capable of indicating such a stark scourging figure when he required it (cf the 'Qui tollis' of the C minor Mass). Nevertheless, thanks not least to the near-infallible singing of Accentus, this is a Requiem to remember.

Equilbey follows the traditional score --that completed (largely) by Sussmayr in the weeks following Mozart's death--give or take a few emendations, mainly in the deployment of the brass instruments (no editor or edition is named on the packaging). Masaaki Suzuki takes a radically different tack, employing a new elaboration of the Mozart fragment by his son, the Bach Collegium's organist Masato Suzuki. This adopts the abortive completion attempted by Joseph Eybler before the manuscript was handed to Sussmayr; Suzuki has filled in the gaps left by Eybler. Followers of such matters will remember that the edition prepared by HC Robbins Landon for The Hanover Band (Nimbus, 7/90) also opted for Eybler but Suzuki's interventions are the more striking. …

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