Suppé’s Requiem of 1855, written in memory of the theatre director Franz Pokorny, is reasonably well known and has been recorded several times. It is a fine work, and despite some obvious borrowings from the Requiems of Mozart and Cherubini it has a freshness and urgency all of its own. It was intended for liturgical performance but very quickly the composer extended it to form an Oratorio by the addition of a mixture of accompanied recitative and arioso as well as an extended orchestral Prelude. It is the resulting work which is heard here. According to the conductor’s notes even then it was intended for church rather than concert hall performance to act as a kind of extended meditation on death. The text of the additional sections was written by Otto Johann Prechtler, originally in German but soon translated into the Latin heard here.
The manuscript score was found only recently in Trieste and has been used as the basis for the edition used here in what is said to be “the first world performance”, although I am unclear as to whether this refers to recordings or also to live performances. In any event it is an important addition to the representation of the composer’s sacred music.
The additional sections alter the impact of those parts of the work which formed part of the original Requiem. The idiom of the newer parts remains rooted in a classical style but a more intimate and personal and less formal feeling is added to its character. This belongs more to the lingua franca of its date than does the original Requiem. For anyone interested in the composer or indeed of choral music of this period this is a work well worth hearing.
As far as can be judged without a score or any rival versions the performance seems to meet the work’s demands admirably. It would be possible to imagine soloists with a more individual and imaginative approach but they are never less than adequate and for much of the time much more than that. Like the chorus and orchestra they have clearly been well rehearsed and show a real understanding of the character of the work. The recording has very much the sound of an opera house but this ensures that the detail of the music is not obscured as it might have been if recorded in a church.
CPO provide the full text with the English and German translations which are essential - at least to me - to understand the additional sections. This is a valuable addition to the small amount of non-theatre music by Suppé available on disc even if you already have a recording of the Requiem.