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Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Requiem K626 (completed Süssmayr) (1791) [53.08]
Angela Maria Blasi (soprano)
Marjana Lipovšek (mezzo)
Uwe Heilmann (tenor)
Jan-Hendrik Rootering (bass)
Symphony Orchestra and Choir of Bavarian Radio/Colin Davis
Te Deum Laudamus K141 [6.53]
Venite populi K260 [4.56]
Regina coeli K276 (1779) [6.25]
Ave verum corpus K618 (1790) [3.08]
Tölzer Knabechor
European Baroque Soloists/Gerhard Schmidt-Gaden
rec. Herkulessaal der Residenz, Munich, March 1991 (Requiem); Stadtpfarrkirche, Bad Tölz, July 1990 (remainder)
RCA RED SEAL CLASSIC LIBRARY 82876 762362 [75.12]


Davis’s two recordings of the Requiem were made twenty-four years apart. His 1967 disc with BBC forces, the John Alldis Choir and soloists Helen Donath, Yvonne Minton, Ryland Davies and Gerd Nienstadt is still available on Penguin Classics, or if not the deletions axe has fallen very recently. It makes a strong contrast with this 1991 Bavarian traversal. As ever timings don’t tell the story as the differences are minimal and often where one might think the BBC recording might be a touch faster it’s actually not. The difference lies in a general feeling of approach, a greater gravity and weight of expression, of choral and string weight and a certain approach to mass. The 1967 recording was majestic, certainly, but more intimately scaled whilst this later one is more demonstratively grand and freighted with drama of a particularly intense kind.
 
This approach extends to his chosen soloists and to the chorus whose approach is often quasi-operatic, especially the sopranos whose big and lusty vibratos stake out their emotive territory. The orchestra is a characteristically big one, strong and broad of texture. The four soloists blend well and are individually good though inconsistently so - Angela Maria Blasi for instance sometimes approaches from under the note though her beauty of tone even at the top of her register is notable. All four have the kind of clarion heft that Davis demands. As for the conductor one might say that he takes the Domine Jesu Christe of the Offertorium rather slowly but the tempo is essentially unchanged since 1967. The fugal entries in the Sanctus are boldly sculpted and powerful, representative of Davis’s concentrated fixity of purpose in this work. Those who retain his earlier recording will know that it balanced more equably the majestic and the inward; maybe this later recording tends more to the former but I find it similarly affecting and involving. As a footnote an Arthaus Musik DVD exists of a Davis Requiem with the Bavarian forces but with different soloists - Edith Mathis, Trudeliese Schmidt, Peter Schreier, and Gwynne Howell.
 
Coupled with the Requiem are some attractive choral fillers, if one can so describe them. The Tölzer Knabechor, European Baroque Soloists under Gerhard Schmidt-Gaden are buoyantly successful in their quartet – Ave verum corpus (of course) is here but so is the splendidly realised Te Deum Laudamus.
 
For a broadly traditional approach to the Requiem, with speeds that are never marmoreal, and for a performance that is dramatic without exaggeration the reissued Bavarian disc is a pleasure to hear. I retain a slight preference for the BBC performance but newcomers will not be disappointed whichever they hear.
 
Jonathan Woolf
 

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