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Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Requiem in D minor, KV626 (1791) [50:04]
Ave verum Corpus, KV618 (1791) [2:59]
Olga Pasiecznik (soprano); Anna Lubanska (mezzo); Krzysztof Szmyt (tenor); Krzysztof Borysiewicz (bass); Lukasz Hodor (trombone)
"Sinfonia Amabile" Choir and Orchestra/Piotr Wajrak
rec. April 2014, Norbertine Sisters Church on Salvator, Cracow, Poland.
DUX 1210 [53:03]

In the notes to this new recording, Jacek Hawryluk says "the Requiem is indeed an unfinished work, a fractured composition that was created in the composer's race against time and against death. And that is what makes it such an inspiring piece." Indeed. It would be on anybody's short-list of the most iconic and inspiring works of Western art music, and likely will always be so.

Much musicological ink, and at least a few recent recordings, have been devoted to examining the question of how to complete this unfinished work. The traditional Süssmayr, or one of the modern alternatives? Through familiarity and repetition, Süssmayr's version has come to be the one we know, and the one to beat. Though not explicitly stated, this is the version Wajrak uses.

The notes also mention the popular culture connection to the play and film Amadeus. As is likely true for many of my generation, the dramatic use of the Requiem in the film led me to explore this work, and classical music more generally. The soundtrack's performance by Marriner and The Academy of St. Martin in the Fields shaped how this and other music of the era "should" sound to me: a chamber orchestra performing modern instruments and aware of period performance practice but wearing that scholarship lightly. That's the style of this performance, with a bit more "period" sound to the strings, yet with significant heft overall. However, as with the question of the completion, one will not find in the notes any consideration of alternative possibilities, which will disappoint (amateur or professional) music scholars.

The names of the "Sinfonia Amabile" Choir and Orchestra and of director Piotr Wajrak are both new to me. The combination of the sound of the Sinfonia and the engineering of the recording in the Norbertine Sisters Church realizes the ideal of the tricky balance of conveying reverential, sacred space without getting muffled in reverberation. This is particularly true for the choir and soloists, who come through the acoustic with pleasing clarity and sharpness.

The disc finishes with the short Ave verum Corpus, which is good to have, but may be best listened to after taking a contemplative break at the end of the Requiem.

In a very crowded field, this recording does not pull ahead of such standard bearers as, in interpretively similar vein, Marriner's, the historically-informed landmark of Gardiner, or large orchestra versions by Karajan or Böhm. However, if you're curious to hear a Polish take on this classic, you'll find this one entirely satisfying.

Brian Burtt

Previous review: Dominy Clements



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