Roger Norrington has always been one of those conductors who makes a difference, whose approach to the music is historically informed and challenging. This applies not only to performance styles but to the editions of the scores as well. Nowhere can such a challenge be more interesting than in the case of the Mozart Requiem
, the major work that lay unfinished on the composer’s desk at the time of his death.
The convention has been and remains to perform the music in the completion by Mozart’s pupil Franz Xaver Süssmayr, but over the years there have been other completions too. One of the most recent has been that by Duncan Druce, and it is this version that Norrington chooses here, in this recording dating from the Mozart bicentenary year of 1991. Druce completed his edition in 1984 and it was performed at the Proms in the bicentenary year, as well as recorded the following month.
Druce’s involvement begins as early as the Recordare
movements, and always remains beautifully judged in terms of line and style. There is never any question that Norrington is less than 100% committed to the score, and the performance is vital and weighty, as appropriate to the context. Any questions will relate to the sound of his ensemble, the London Classical Players, compared with the big modern-instrument orchestras that have come to dominate the recorded catalogue. Among these there are several splendid alternatives, for example the LPO with Franz Welser-Möst (EMI 8782912) or the Swedish Radio Choir with the Berlin Philharmonic and Riccardo Muti (EMI 0979772). This Norrington version, incidentally, is also available in a bargain-price 2 CD compilation (Virgin Classics 9125662), coupled with the Brahms’ German Requiem
, issued only two months after this (see review
Norrington’s soloists are very good, so too the recorded sound, and this version of the Mozart Requiem
can be enthusiastically welcomed, both as an edition and as a performance.
There are two bonus items in the shape of the beautiful short motet Ave Verum Corpus
and the wonderful Masonic Funeral Music
of 1785. The latter is not the most profound interpretation, lightweight of texture and tempo, but it is an interesting performance. Something weightier is worth experiencing in this, one of Mozart’s greatest works. A worthwhile choice is István Kertész (EMI Eloquence ELQ 4769781), coupled with a fine rendition of the Süssmayr version of the Requiem
This latest reissue of Norrington’s Virgin Classics recording comes at bargain price but there are a couple of drawbacks. The weakness of the general presentation is clear from the brief introductory note on the back cover, which is the only programme note there is. This states: ‘... an outstanding group of singers present Duncan Druce’s version of the Requiem
together with other moving choral works.’ However, the Masonic Funeral Music
is purely instrumental - enough said. Nor are text and translation provided, since the insert leaflet merely lists the tracks and advertises other issues in the series.
Norrington has always been one of those conductors who makes a difference, whose approach to the music is historically informed and challenging.