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Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Requiem (1791) [41.03]
Inter natos Mulierum, K.72 (1771) [5.09]
Misericordias Domini, K.222 (1775) [6.09]
Miriam Allan (soprano)
Anne Buter (mezzo)
Marcus Ullmann (tenor)
Martin Snell (bass)
Gewandhaus Kammerchor
Leiziger Kammerorchester/Morten Schuldt-Jensen
rec. Grosser Saal des Gewandhauses, Leipzig, Germany, 10-12 November 2004
NAXOS 8.557728 [52.21]

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I find balance very important in Mozartís Requiem; both the balance between orchestra and chorus and the orchestraís internal balance. For me, it is important that the dark tone colour of Mozartís wind instrumentation (basset horns, French horns, bassoons, trombones) comes over. This means that in the opening, as the texture develops the sound of the basset horns should not be swamped by the strings and that the chorus should not be so big that the sense is lost that the trombones are doubling the vocal parts. These issues can make or break a performance from me, no matter how good the individual performances. This new recording from the Leipziger Kammerorchester and Gewandhaus Kammerchor uses chamber forces and a quartet of young soloists so promises much.

From the opening notes of the introit it is clear that we have a performance which is clean and lithe; the Bassett Horn players produce finely shaped lines and they are well balanced with the strings, it satisfies all my requirements for the opening of the work. The string sound is not well upholstered, which may not be to everybodyís taste but certainly suits this interpretation of the work. Morten Schuldt-Jensenís are swift without ever sounding rushed. His strings do not overdo the use of vibrato, and players and singers respond well to his shapely, streamlined reading.

A problem lighter, swifter readings of works like the Requiem is that the essential profundity of the piece can be lost in the process of re-interpretation. This does not happen here, the resulting performance, though lithe, has a sombre shapeliness to it which does justice to Mozartís work.

The soloists make a well balanced ensemble and match conductor, orchestra and choir in intention. Miriam Allan has a light, silvery voice; more Papagena than Pamina, more Blonde than Konstanze; she makes a fine opening impression in her solo in the Introit which is ingratiatingly shapely. Tenor and Bass soli, Marcus Ullmann and Martin Snell, both successfully negotiate their tricky opening solos in Tuba Mirum. Snell has an attractively flexible bass voice which negotiates the lower regions of the solo part with apparent ease, but he also contributes some lovely shapely solos as well. I would like to hear his Sarastro. Ullmann has a lithe, light tenor voice, Pedrillo rather than Belmonte, though there is a suspicion of steeliness in the voice under pressure. Contralto Anne Buter has a warm toned voice which combines dark hues with flexibility of line. All four have distinctive voices yet blend well in the ensembles; they are not bland, but they produce fine ensemble singing, something that is important in this work.

The choir are equally impressive and are well balanced with the orchestra. They produce a clean shapely sound and do not seem to be taxed by Schuldt-Jensenís tempi. I would certainly like to hear them in other works.

The orchestra was formed in 1971 by members of the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra who wanted to play more music in a smaller ensemble. The formation of the choir followed in 2001; the choir is made up of professional singers and is intended to complement the orchestra. On the showing of this disc, I hope to hear more of them.

The edition used is the standard SŁssmayr one. I still prefer this to the more modern editions; so much creative input is required from the editor that I prefer an edition by Mozartís contemporary to one of my contemporaries aping Mozartís style. I did not follow the work with a full score, so I am unsure whether Schuldt-Jensen has corrected some of the perceived Ďinfelicitiesí in SŁssmayrís scoring.

The filler for the disc is a pair of offertory motets, written when Mozart was in his late teens. They are attractive works, creditably performed. I only wished that the group could have found something a little more substantial.

My disc came in a handsome slipcase celebrating Naxosís 18th birthday with a complimentary disc giving a taste of Naxosís choral repertoire with some 11 tracks ranging from Bach and Handel to Tippett and Vanhal.

This Mozart Requiem will appeal to you if you are looking for a small-scale, lithe performance which respects the distinctive tone colours of Mozartís scoring and responds to his profundity without tarrying over-much. If your ideal performance is the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra and the Wiener Singverein, then you might not find this quite to your taste.

Robert Hugill

see also Review by GŲran Forsling




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