Domenico CIMAROSA (1749-1801)
Requiem in G minor [51:45]
Adriana Kucerová (soprano); Terézia Kružliaková (alto); L’udovit Ludha (tenor); Gustáv Belácek (bass); Trinity Choir; Lúcnica Chorus
Capella Istropolitana/Kirk Trevor
rec. Slovak Radio Concert Hall, Bratislava, May-June 2008. DDD
NAXOS 8.572371 [51:45]

Cimarosa’s Requiem is a curious choice for Naxos to have recorded. A work that seems to offer the promise of dramatic intensity and operatic flair turns out to be a rather flat affair that, once heard, is instantly forgettable.

Composed in 1787 while Cimarosa was engaged at the court of Catherine the Great of Russia, the Requiem was penned to mark the death of the wife of the French ambassador in St Petersburg. It is scored for soprano, alto, tenor and bass soloists, as well as a four-part chorus and full orchestra. It was written after Cimarosa had already established a hugely successful reputation as an opera composer – although he was yet to compose his greatest success, Il Matrimonia Segreto (The Secret Marriage) in Vienna four years later.

The work starts attractively enough, with a darkly stirring orchestral introduction leading to a sombre Introit and Kyrie. Thereafter the Requiem – which was reportedly written in a hurry – fails to move off the starting blocks. The average quality of the writing is not helped much by a very cautious performance. The Slovakian soloists and chorus traipse along without much interest, while the orchestra under Kirk Trevor is barely noticeable. Tenor L’udovit Ludha makes an ill-judged stab at passionate singing at the opening of the ‘Preces meae’ (track 11), but this merely sounds forced and pained for both singer and listener.

Only the ‘Rex tremendae’ (track 8) gives a glimpse of what might have been. The short movement – just over a minute long – has a rhythmic vigour that propels the choral singing forward, and the string writing is, for a change, relatively sophisticated. The ‘Lacrimosa’ (track 13) is also pleasantly appealing, with some varied solo passages and an affecting ‘Amen’ chorus. But when one considers that Mozart’s Requiem was just four years away, there is simply no comparison.

John-Pierre Joyce

A rather flat affair ... instantly forgettable