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Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Requiem in D minor K626 (Süssmayr completion)
Genia Kühmeier (soprano); Bernarda Fink (alto); Mark Padmore (tenor); Gerald Finley (bass)
Netherlands Radio Choir
Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra/Mariss Jansons
rec. live, Concertgebouw, Amsterdam, 14-16 September 2011
RCO LIVE RCO14002 SACD [47:35]

When you consider this alongside John Butt’s recently released recording, 2014 is shaping up to be something of a vintage year for Mozart Requiems. Jansons’ version is utterly different to Butt’s and is rich and symphonic where Butt’s is sparse and exploratory, but it’s more informed by period performance practice than you might at first think. You’d have to be the worst kind of authenticist not to feel a twitch of excitement at the prospect of hearing the Requiem performed by a set of musicians like this one.
The first glory of the performance is the sound of the orchestra, which is velvety smooth and sumptuously rich, as you might expect. There is a gorgeous homogeneity to its sound which sets it apart from the often exploratory sparseness of the period groups. It’s also well-disciplined and without a hint of the gloop that mars the recordings of mega-maestros of the past - most notably Karajan’s often unlistenable recordings of this work. That’s because Jansons goes out of his way to make this a reading of intelligence and subtlety. His vision is expansive at times, but by no means always so, and he often introduces touches that have the ability to surprise, such as a surprisingly quiet, even peaceful end to the Lachrymosa. The “exaudi” section of the Introitus is delicately clipped, and the string turns in the Benedictus have the odd staccato thrown in to liven them up. There are a myriad touches like this, all worthy of a listen, and none of them wilful or distracting, making this a very individual Requiem that stands out in the crowded market.
The singing is super too. The Netherlands Radio Choir acquit themselves with real aplomb, giving you all the sumptuousness you associate with a large scale choir, but also plenty of bite and clarity. The soloists are top notch as well. Genia Kühmeier has a beautiful creaminess to her tone which she uses to great effect in the ensembles, while Bernarda Fink adds great colour in the middle. Gerald Finley sounds fantastic in his big moments, such as the Tuba mirum, and Mark Padmore brings both beauty and clarity to his solo passages.
This disc features pretty high in the rankings if you’re looking for a Mozart Requiem on modern instruments, and I’ll put it next to Barenboim and Schreier on my shelf, knowing it will not suffer in their company. While the recording is live, the audience are so well behaved that you would never guess. The excellent sound only seals the deal.
Simon Thompson