This event at Łódz
Cathedral, Poland was clearly well attended. It looks like a
capacity audience. It was actually a complete Solemn High Mass
in commemoration of the first anniversary of the death of Pope
John Paul II. Candles abound and a bell ushers in proceedings;
a solemn procession of church dignitaries enters.
Apt, then, that
the dark side of the Requiem is even more in evidence
in this performance. The work creeps in as what looks like crepuscular
light seeps through the church windows. This is clearly a feast
for the eyes, something which I fear proved too much of a temptation
for the producer. Camera angles move rather too often and rather
too rapidly, and the camera can pan rather too swiftly. Decorations,
too, are dragged into use. A wooden image of the crucified Christ
provides the backdrop to the Dies Irae, for example,
and rapid cuts to stained glass Jesuses are simply off-putting.
A shame there are no subtitles to illuminate the meanings of
the words sung, even if the text is familiar to most Westerners.
The choir, though,
is excellent. Clearly the chorus master, Marek Jaszczak, is
highly musical. The soloists are generally good. Watch out for
the violently red-haired soprano. It is a shame we are privy
to the tenor's reactions while the bass is delivering his excellent
'Tuba mirum', for Zdunikowski is clearly nervous – as his disappointing
entrance subsequently confirms.
The conductor, Tadeusz
Wojciechowski, generally fails to inject energy into the music.
There is a real drop in the 'Rex tremendae'. Contrasts in the
'Confutatis' are underplayed although there is some nice delicacy
here. Perhaps the Sanctus comes off best, for here the choir really
comes into its own. Set against this is the fact that counterpoint
can become rather blurred. This is understandable in this vast,
high-ceilinged acoustic, but no help to Mozart's music. A more
charismatic figure at the helm would have helped.
There is the option
to watch the whole mass, in Polish, punctuated by Mozart's music.
There are some lovely declaimed/sung texts with congregational
responses from an uncredited young lady with a most pleasing voice.
Oh, for subtitles! As it is, this full-service option only really
carries meaning for Poles or Polish speakers; a bit of a waste,
really. And there are far, far better Requiems available
on disc, while on DVD the Solti
at St Stephen's Cathedral in Vienna gives a far better idea
of the majesty of Mozart's conception.