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Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Requiem in D minor K626 completed by Franz Xaver Süssmayr [50:07]
(Introitus: 1 Requiem aeternam [5:00]; 2 Kyrie [2:35]; Sequenz; 3 Dies irae [1:47]; 4 Tuba mirum [3:37]; 5 Rex tremendae [2:08]; 6 Recordare [5:46]; 7 Confutatis [2:31]; 8 Lacrimosa [3:07]; Offertorium: 9 Domine Jesu Christe [3:45]; 10 Hostias [3:46]; 11 Sanctus [1:24]; 12 Benedictus [5:34]; 13 Agnus Dei [3:06]; Communio: 14 Lux aeterna [6:02])
Franz Xaver SÜSSMAYR (1766-1803)
Requiem [17:55]

15 Praeludium [1:42]; Zum Eingang: 16 Komm,gib die Ruh der Ewigkeit [1:48]; Zur Sequenz [I]: 17 Am Tag des Zorns [1:35]; Zum Offertorium: 18 O Menschenvater voll der Huld [3:50]; Zur Sequenz [II]: 19 O Jesu,denk dass du das Leben [1:48]; Zum Sanctus u. Benedictus: 20 Sonne, Mond und Sterne [2:16]; Zum Agnus u. Kommun: 21 Gottes Lamm; Postludium [4:56]
Maria Jette (sop); Jennifer Larmore (mezzo); James Taylor (tenor); Eric Owens (bass); St Olaf Choir/Anton Armstrong; St Paul Chamber Orchestra/Andreas Delfs
rec. live Ordway Hall, St Paul, Minnesota, 7-8 Nov 2003 DDD (Mozart Requiem)
St Olaf Choir and Orchestra/Anton Armstrong
rec. St Andrews Church, Mahtomedi. Minnesota, 26-27 May 2004. DDD (Süssmayr Requiem)
AVIE AV0047 [68:11]

 

Those familiar with Mozartís Requiem K626 will also know that it remained incomplete when he died on Dec. 5th 1791. The completion work was effected, in the main, by his pupil Franz Xaver Süssmayr.

Despite there being no shortage of high quality recordings of Mozartís Requiem, this new release is rather appealing because it includes an original work by Süssmayr- a Requiem written after the death of Mozart. Having remained in obscurity for the past 200 years this performance of Sussmayrís Requiem is claimed to be its first during that period.

A Count Walsegg, who wished to pass it off as his own work, written in memory of his wife, anonymously commissioned Mozartís Requiem K626. In addition to it being incomplete at the composerís death there is little else about which we can be sure. Beyond these facts it is difficult to distinguish between speculation, romantic fiction and intriguing legend. One particular version of the legend tells how Mozart, mortally ill, took the messenger from Count Walsegg to be an emissary from the other world. His reaction was to set about feverishly writing his own Requiem and instructing Süssmayr on completion details should he die before it was finished.

Constance Mozart initially assigned the completion to Joseph Eybler, a pupil who had regularly visited Mozart during his final illness, and for whom he had a high regard. Unable to complete the composition due to time constraints, Eybler returned it to Constance. Several other professionals were approached before Süssmayr received the final assignment.

The key pre-occupation has always been exactly how much Süssmayr contributed to the final Requiem, and how authentic the work as a whole is, in relation to Mozartís original conception and inspiration. The Requiem, wholly from Süssmayrís own pen that appears on the present recording may shed additional light on this question.

Given the prevailing circumstances the Süssmayr composition is of historical interest, but there is nothing particularly outstanding, compelling or significant about it, which may well explain why it has remained in obscurity for so long. While this relatively short work [17:55] is competent and well crafted, one is left with the impression that the composer had little creative input into the final version of Mozartís Requiem K626. It is highly probable that Süssmayr had access to original sketches by Mozart, which were subsequently lost or destroyed.

The intriguing combination of these works on the same new release provides the perfect vehicle for lots of marketing hype. That aside, the quality of the performances generally, deserves recognition. The St. Olaf choir is one of Americaís leading choral groups and on the basis of this performance, it is easy to see why.

In any recording of this kind an intrinsic quality that allows orchestra and choir to be audibly separate with their own spatial position, is highly desirable. While the St Paul Chamber Orchestra provides a high standard of support, in much of the recording the orchestral sound is mixed in with the singers. On the other hand the quality of spatial separation is well achieved in the recording of Mozartís Requiem by Christopher Hogwood [LíOiseau Lyre 411 712-12] and doubtless is a function of the venue and engineering choices. Nonetheless its absence can compromise listening enjoyment and detract from the overall effect.

In Süssmayrís Requiem, the setting uses German paraphrasing of the standard Latin text, the result of a special contemporaneous papal dispensation allowing the celebration of the mass in the vernacular in certain Austrian Duchies. For this reason those less familiar with the Requiem format, may find difficulty correlating comments from the accompanying notes with specific track listings.

Those easily agitated by unnecessary inter-track audience noises and clapping/ shouting by the audience at the end of the recording, should take a tranquilizer prior to audition.

Despites its virtues this disc probably will not be purchased to replace established, favoured versions of Mozartís Requiem. The temptation to hear a performance of a totally original Requiem by Süssmayr, not performed for the past 200 years, is one to which many will however succumb.

Zane Turner

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