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Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Requiem K626 (completed SŁssmayr) (1791) [59.27]
Concerto for two pianos K242 [23:18]
Concerto for two pianos K365 [24:38]
Magda Laszlo (soprano); Hilde Rossl-Majdan (mezzo): Petre Munteanu (tenor); Richard Standen (bass)
Vienna Academy Choir and Orchestra of the Vienna State Opera/Hermann Scherchen
Paul Badura-Skoda and Reine Gianoli (pianos)
Orchestra of the Vienna State Opera/Hermann Scherchen
rec. Vienna 1953 (Requiem), Vienna 1951 (Concertos)
TAHRA WEST 3005-06 [59:27 + 48:26]


Scherchen left two commercial recordings of the Requiem. There is a 1958 performance with Jurinac, Lucrezia West, Hans Loeffler and Frederick Guthrie and there is the one under discussion, made five years earlier, once more in Vienna. The soloists obviously were entirely different.

The salient features of Scherchenís Requiem are steadiness, sonority and spiritual intensity bordering on the operatic. Forces are large, the conception is brooding and funereal and the absorption with contrapuntal clarity leads to slight retardation of dynamism in the interests of precision of entry points. Tempi naturally are far slower than one could ever expect to find today. The Kyrie for example, where one may have expected an increase of speed after the monumental opening statements, holds its nerve; it generates a powerful granitic and cumulative force. Strict rhythm informs the Dies irae and the Ricordare is affecting in a way seldom encountered today - so much the worse for us. Itís in the Lachrymosa that Scherchenís more operatic instincts come into play Ė this is intensely theatrical music making but never flashy or wanton. One senses behind it a massive humanity and feeling, an intense spirituality of utterance. With his first class singers he tends to sweep away objections. Even where one may feel him dogged or too concentrated on the stark humanity of it all - even at the expense of underlying rhythmic incision Ė one tends to acknowledge the overwhelming humanness of Scherchenís conception. Seldom, surely, has the Requiem been accorded such a sense of controlled feeling.†

Coupled with the Requiem in this two disc set from Tahra are the two concertos for two pianos that Scherchen recorded in Vienna two years earlier with Paul Badura-Skoda and Reine Gianoli. The engineers certainly gave the piano team some presence in the sound balance and they make an engaging and successful pairing. The Adagio of K242 is taken at a crisp tempo and there are some fluid and superior orchestral solos along the way as well. Thereís also good timbral balance between the two pianos. The grazioso element of the same concertoís finale finds a witty champion in Scherchen. The companion concerto finds real brio in the opening movement and a fine military spring in the finale. These are well-characterised performances, not ideally balanced perhaps but rewarding examples of Scherchenís way with Mozart concertos.† He left behind a recording of the Concerto for flute and harp but Tahra 154 in which it was housed has now been deleted.

In fact almost all Scherchenís Mozart on Tahra has fallen prey to the deletion axe so I would urge you to make the acquaintance of this powerful, spacious and profoundly human Requiem before it, too, goes the way of all flesh. Especially when the transfer is so successful.

Jonathan Woolf






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