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Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-179l)
Requiem in d, K 626 (completed Süßmayr) (1791) [60.00]
Edith Mathis, soprano; Trudeliese Schmidt, alto; Peter Schreier, tenor; Gwynne Howell, bass.
Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra and Chorus/Sir Colin Davis.
Recorded NTSC 4:3. Sound PCM stereo 2.0 48/16.
Menus in Deutsch, Français, English, Castellano.
Notes in English, Français, Deutsch. Latin text. no translations.
DVD 5 format. region 0 [All regions]
ARTHAUS MUSIK RM ARTS 100449 [60.00]

Comparison recordings

Harnoncourt, Yakar, Wenkel, Equiluz, Holl, Concentus Musicus (Süßmayr version) [ADD] Teldec 2292 42911-2
Hogwood, Academy of Ancient Music (Maunder edition) LíOiseau-Lyre 411 712-2
Labadie, La Chapelle de Québec, Les Violons du Roi, (Levin edition) HDCD*** Dorian DOR 90310

Davisís performance is heartfelt and deeply emotional, but not slow. He keeps a good modern tempo going and achieves great clarity. The soloists are excellent, individually, and in ensemble. The chorus sounds very, very good. Iíve sung this work* so I know what Iím talking about. As with many German choirs, the tenor section is very capable and hence is able to give the work the correct balance of sound. A chorus with weak tenors is like an orchestra with a weak brass section, and recent scholarship shows that Mozart was much more enamoured of brass sound that previously thought, that trumpets should be more forward in his symphonies and, perhaps even more important, in his piano concertos.

Recent scholarship now seems to be favouring the Süßmayr edition again. Although Bruno Walter could at one time long ago say "there is not one note of Mozart in the ĎSanctus,í" Harnoncourt points out that comparison of those parts of the Requiem Süßmayr is credited with wholly composing, with Süßmayrís other music, shows that Mozart/Süßmayr is of substantially higher quality than Süßmayr alone. Hence we may be justified in assuming that Süßmayr worked from sketches or even verbal communications from the dying Mozart, and so Harnoncourt performs the Süßmayr version, albeit with revised orchestration and on original instruments. In any event, the Maunder edition simply leaves out the Süßmayr contributions while adding a fugue by Maunder. More satisfactory is the Levin edition which repairs Süßmayr by trying to read through the resulting music to reconstruct Mozartís lost sketches, but ultimately leaves in most of the Süßmayr, albeit re-orchestrated. Levin also reworked the "Amen" and "Hosanna" fugues to make them more in Mozartís style and remove facile modernisms presumably added by Süßmayr. If you want an alternative version of the Requiem to go with your Süßmayr version, the Labadie recording of the Levin arrangement is a good one to buy for scholarship, musicianship and sound.

Another argument favouring the Süßmayr contributions is that if Mozart had actually left no advice or sketches as to how he wanted the Requiem completed, the natural thing for Süßmayr to do would have been to orchestrate and adapt other completed music by Mozart** rather than try to "fake it". But the Requiem is, for better or worse, all original music.

And, the Süßmayr version is the one we all have known and loved, and heard performed many times by the greatest of artists. It has its own performance history, and this performance can proudly stand with the very best of them.

Note that the sound is not compressed AC-3, but is 48/16 PCM, actually superior to CD quality; this is an uncompressed DVD-Audio with video track. Consequently the chorus, particularly the sopranos and tenors, are clearer and cleaner in sound than with either AC-3 or CD. The two channel sound decodes nicely in your surround-sound decoder. Video quality is quite good but not brilliantly sharp. Video direction is generally good, but perhaps there are too many close-ups. I donít see how watching drops of sweat running slowly all the way down the singersí faces helps one to get the feeling of the music.

*At an early rehearsal of the Burbank (Los Angeles County, California, USA) Civic Chorale (in church!), as the altos declaimed cuncta stricte somebody in the baritone section un-helpfully mistranslated "tight pussy" and waves of snickers reverberated throughout the chorus. Fortunately by performance night the joke was so old nobody laughed.

**This, of course, could have been what was done and the original sources destroyed; if so this only bolsters further the claims of the Süßmayr version.

***That, of course, is now MICROSOFT HDCD™. Windows Media Player version 9, running under Windows XP, will play HDCDs with superior audio quality; any CD player will play them with normal CD quality.

Paul Shoemaker

An excellent traditional video version in superior sound. ... see Full Review

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