Aureole etc.

Golden Age singers

Nimbus on-line

Faure songs
Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

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Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756 - 1791)
Requiem mass in d, K 626 (1791) [60.06]
Magda Lászlo, soprano; Hilde Rössl-Majdan, contralto; Petre Munteanu; tenor; Richard Standen, Bass
Vienna Akademie Kammerchor
Vienna State Opera Orchestra/Hermann Scherchen
Recorded in the Konzerthaus, Vienna, Austria, July 1953. [mono]
Restored by Pierre Paquin from Wesminster WL 5233, "24 bit digital technology"

This superb performance of this masterwork was, for a time in the 1950s, considered by most critics to be the absolute finest version available, both for sound and performance. "The least sentimentalised and most effective version", said one. This may strike listeners today as odd since this performance is by our modern standards a little slow and somewhat affected, but the monumental power of it comes through nonetheless. The slow tempo is possibly due in part to the need to make sure every contrapuntal line in the choral part was clearly audible in this monophonic recording. Scherchenís principle during recording was "Make everything audible." [Alles hörbar machen] and to accomplish this with the technology of the time required a number of adjustments to what had previously been standard orchestral recording technique, including such things as highlight microphones, particularly on the percussion; smaller choral groups; and very close perspective overall. At the time the recordings were derided by a few conservative critics as being too clear, too brilliant, and too close, but by todayís standards they are nothing of the kind. Scherchen and his engineers (most notably Dr. Kurt List) stand as the fathers of our modern classical music recording ethic; only Leopold Stokowski could claim to have had as much (some would say a little more) influence over the way we hear music today.

This is, of course, the "standard" Süssmayer version. Orchestra, soloists, and chorus are all excellent. Mágda Laszlo, who on some of her recordings is a little strident in tone, has never sounded so clear and sweet. My recollections are that this recording was originally very heavy in the bass, and the bass in this transfer is adequate, but sounds a bit rolled off. The highs, too sound somewhat cut back, and I believe my practised ears detect the effects of an analogue stereo tape recorder somewhere in the restoration chain.

This recording was never re-issued in the US in the Westminster (S)WN 18000 series; apparently Westminster lost the rights to it when the 5000 series pressings sold out, and the rights reverted to Ducretet-Thomson; subsequently the recording was issued on a Decca ("London" in the USA) pressing, DTL 93079, which is how I once owned it. This later pressing would probably have been a better venue from which to make the digital restoration, but this is a very rare recording indeed, and my copy was unfortunately damaged. Scherchenís later remake in stereo is not so distinguished a recording, and it is available on a DG Universal CD. Ducretet-Thomson recordings are apparently now owned by EMI, and some of them have been issued on TAHRA CDs by Scherchenís daughter, Dr. Myriam Scherchen who, by the way, does not endorse this reissue.

I found this restoration to be greatly assisted by a little added reverberation, just enough to open up the choral sound but not enough to cloud the tone of the soloists, and that is how I will listen to it.

Paul Shoemaker

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