The chamber orchestra MusicaAeterna was founded by Teodor Currentzis
in 2004, while he was music director of the Novosibirsk State
Opera and the orchestra was involved in Opera and Ballet performances
at the theatre. On this CD the orchestra are described as the
‘orchestre de chambre de l’Opéra de Novosibirsk’,
but in January 2011 Currentzis became Artistic Director of the
Perm State Opera and Ballet and MusicaAeterna are now based
The ensemble has a very wide range of repertoire. On this disc,
the players sound as if they are playing in a historically informed
way and the illustrations show them using period instruments.
This recording was made in 2010 at the Opera of Novosibirsk,
with the New Siberian Singers who are described in the booklet
as ‘choeur de chambre de l’Opéra de Novosibirsk’.
Currentzis himself is of Greek birth - he is 40 next year (2012)
- though he trained in Russia and settled there after his training.
Though the handsome booklet includes photographs, notes, texts
and translations, there is absolutely no explanation as to how
this recording came about; how a Siberian choir and orchestra
came to be recorded by a Belgian record label. No matter, the
results are pretty striking.
Both orchestra and chorus number around 30 people and Currentzis
takes full advantage of the speed and flexibility that this
gives him. The sound quality is lithe and focused; this is not
a performance for anyone who wants a luxurious string tone.
Currentzis relishes the spare quality of the sound-world and
balances the orchestra with due allowance for the wind instruments.
This is one of those performances where the basset-horns are
allowed really to tell.
Currentzis’s speeds are distinctly brisk, and both chorus
and orchestra take them impressively in their stride. With vibrato
kept to a minimum on all sides, the fast passages come over
admirably with some superbly controlled singing from the choir.
The edition used is the traditional one, so there are no shocks
there. Not only does Currentzis relish the spare quality of
his ensemble, he also emphasises this, encouraging the chorus
to add extra dynamics and accents. Yes there are early music
bulges in the choral line, but luckily their incidence is rarely
at the expense of the musical line which is admirably consistent
throughout. What may disturb purists more is the way he gets
the singers to accent notes, such as the beginnings of phrases
in the Introit and Kyrie. At various times the
basses slap their strings in emphasis and at one point bells
- of the variety used in church services - occur. It would have
been nice to learn what Currentzis’s thoughts were. The
Dies Irae is certainly impressive in its drama, but the
Rex Tremendae seems a trifle too fast for its own good,
with the opening chorus cries of ‘Rex’ shortened
rather too much.
I gather from the CD label’s web-site that the recording
benefited from 7 days of recording sessions and this shows:
the recording and performance are admirably at one, completely
thought through. This extends to the soloists, their vocal performances
are in tone with the slimline quality of the performance.
Those who have seen the highly coloured Simone Kermes live may
be surprised at the low-key and sympathetic performance she
gives here; she spins a beautifully fine vocal line. All four
soloists are individuals but they come together as a well blended
quartet, not homogenous, just four voices nicely balance and
listening to each other. Tenor Markus Brutscher has a slightly
edgy lyric voice, which I rather like. He manages the tenor’s
opening phrase admirably and after that scarcely puts a foot
wrong; though both he and Kermes at times rather overdo the
squeezing of the voice across the vocal line. The bass, Arnaud
Richard, could perhaps be darker but he delivers the Tuba
Mirum in a finely grained voice. Alto Stephanie Houtzeel
joins with these three in a nicely controlled manner, missing
entirely any plummy quality.
The singers use German pronunciation for the Latin, which is
as it should be. At 46 minutes the CD is a little short and
could have benefited from some additional items.
This will not be a Mozart Requiem for everyone, but Currentzis
and his performers give a brilliantly performed account, bringing
a breezy freshness to the whole enterprise which is infectious.
I will certainly be playing this again.