Antonio SALIERI (1750-1825)
Requiem in C minor (1804) [38:58]
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Meerestille und Glückliche Fahrt Op 112 [8:29]
Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)
Intende Voci in B flat D963 [9:30]
Arianna Zukerman (soprano); Simona Ivas (mezzo); Adam Zdunikowski (tenor); Luís Rodrigues (baritone); Marius Brenciu (tenor)
Gulbenkian Chorus and Orchestra/Lawrence Foster
rec. live, Grande Auditório, Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, Lisbon, November 2009
PENTATONE PTC 5186 359 SACD [56:22]
Salieri might reasonably have been surprised to discover that he would be remembered not for what he did do, but for what he continued to say that he did not do. His name is well known even in non-musical circles as a result of his being a main character in Pushkin’s Mozart and Salieri (later turned into an opera by Rimsky-Korsakov) and in Peter Shaffer’s play (and later film) Amadeus. There he is depicted as a murderous rival to Mozart at the time that the latter is writing his own setting of the Requiem. Both Salieri’s own testimony and later evidence suggests that this is simply fiction. The truth which is more relevant to this disc is that Salieri was a very well known and respected composer who wrote many very successful operas, followed by much church music in his role as Hofkapellmeister in Vienna. His pupils included Beethoven, Liszt and Schubert . The Requiem heard on this disc was written for a very specific purpose - Salieri’s own funeral. This did not take place for some time after he had completed it, although his instructions were followed and it was performed before most of the great and good of Viennese music.
The Requiem is certainly an impressive work. I do not know enough of Salieri’s other church music to know if it is typical, but unsurprisingly it reminds this listener of Gluck, Haydn and early Beethoven and Schubert. The soloists are used infrequently although their part in the Benedictus is particularly lovely. The scoring is always effective with many beautifully written woodwind solos and with fierce brass in the Tuba mirum. Whereas the better known Requiems of Mozart and Verdi depict in the Lacrymosa the weeping that is described there, Salieri instead uses this part of the text to give an awful warning of what it is that will lead to the tears. This is effective and is typical of his care and imagination over word-setting. The work ends with final words sung by the chorus with their lines doubled by the winds but otherwise unaccompanied. Whilst I am not yet convinced that the Requiem can be described unreservedly as a masterpiece it certainly does not deserve the oblivion into which it has dropped, and should surely appeal to any choir wanting a work of this period which makes a full use of the choir rather than predominantly of the soloists.
The briefer works by two of Salieri’s pupils are also rarely performed in public but they too very much deserve to be. Although the performances are said to be live there are no obvious audience noises or lapses from the performers here or in the main work. The contrasting character of the two sections of the Beethoven is well caught although for me the highlight of the disc is the miraculous late Schubert work. Its textures and harmonies are both original and memorable - so much packed into a work of under ten minutes in length.
The performances and recording are admirable but what is not so good is the absence of texts or translations. This is not a problem in the Requiem whose words are familiar and easily found in any event, but for full enjoyment the listener needs to be able to understand in detail what is being sung in the shorter works. This is regrettable in a full price disc which is nonetheless well worth exploring for those with any interest in the composers represented.
The performances and recording are admirable.