Luigi CHERUBINI (1760-1842)
Requiem in C minor (1816) [43:38]
Tractus - Absolve, Domine [3:30]
Hofkapelle Stuttgart/Frieder Bernius
Schola Gregoriana Tübingen/Wilfried Rombach (Tractus)
rec. 13-15 May 2010, Kirche Reutlingen-Gönningen, Germany. DDD
Texts and translations included in the booklet.
CARUS 83.227 SACD [46:12]
I would first refer the reader to the earlier review of the disc on this website by Michael Cookson, who gives a detailed account of the history of Cherubini’s C minor Requiem and description of the work itself. He rightly assigns it a Recording of the Month. I can only concur in his assessment of its quality.
This very powerful and beautiful Requiem, which recalls Mozart’s in some respects and which influenced Beethoven and others, has not received the number of performances and recordings it deserves. I had the privilege of singing in this work back in the mid-1970s and have had a real fondness for it ever since. The recording that I know best and have used as a reference is Riccardo Muti’s with the Ambrosian Singers and the Philharmonia Orchestra on EMI Classics. This has been reissued most recently on a six-CD set (EMI Classics 50999 6 29462 2 3) with Cherubini’s masses and D minor Requiem. It is also still available on a two-CD set with the Verdi Requiem, as far as I am aware. Muti’s approach is rather larger and more dramatic than that of Friedrich Bernius. Significantly his tempi are slower in every movement, though for some of them not by that much. As a generalization, I would say that Muti’s looks forward to Verdi, while the Bernius perhaps has more in common with Mozart. However, I don’t want to make too much of the comparison. I have not heard the Muti in its most recent incarnation and have it only on LP. Nonetheless, after hearing this stunning new Carus recording, I fear the Muti may be showing its age. The period orchestra plays extremely well and produces all the power one could ask for. The tam-tam crash at the beginning of the Dies irae is overwhelming, the brass plenty powerful, and the vibrato-less strings not only secure but also warm and refined. The chorus is also excellent having both body and clarity. Indeed, I cannot imagine a better account of the Requiem than this new one.
One drawback is the disc’s short timing. On the cover only the Requiem is listed, but there is also this strange Tractus sung by Gregorian chanters, separating the Gradual from the Dies irae and somewhat diminishing the abruptness of the tam-tam crash. Presumably this was included to make the work seem more a part of a Catholic mass than a concert performance. The notes to the CD, which overall are superb, make no mention of the reason behind its inclusion here. If preferred one can program it out so that the Dies irae starts immediately after the Gradual. What else could have been included besides the Requiem? Two other recordings, one by Matthew Best and the Corydon Singers and Orchestra on Hyperion, the other by Martin Pearlman and the Boston Baroque on Telarc, have the composer’s Marche funèbre as a filler. This adds only six-plus minutes to the overall timing, but the march with its use of the tam-tam similar to that in the Requiem is quite appropriate. In addition, Pearlman also includes Beethoven’s Elegiac Song on his recording. I have heard neither Best nor Pearlman, but I cannot imagine either being superior to the Bernius. Despite its rather short timing this new disc is highly desirable. In any case, quality counts for more than quantity.
A highly desirable new recording of Cherubini’s C minor Requiem.
see also review by Michael Cookson