- Requiem for soloists, chorus, and orchestra, K. 626
Mozart: Requiemby Edward Higginbottom
In a marketplace well supplied with recordings of Mozart's "Requiem in D minor, K. 626," this one does indeed live up to its claim of standing out. It's one of just a few recordings done with a mixed choir of boys and men, and on top of that the soloists are drawn from the choir, lessening the contrast between them. The Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment is a small group, here using period instruments. There certainly would have been performances of sacred music with these forces in the Vienna of Mozart's time, and annotator and conductor Edward Higginbottom notes that an account of the performance of the "Requiem" that was eventually arranged after Mozart's death refers to them only by their last names, something that would have been unusual applied to female soloists. The arguments in favor of this mode of performance are by no means definitive. Hearing the soprano and alto solos sung by boys of average accomplishments is unexpected to say the least, and the singer Mozart most likely had in mind, here as in his other sacred choral music, was his wife Constanze herself, a soprano of considerable talent. This is by any measure a somewhat placid reading of a very stormy work. But what makes this novel reading worth the perfect Mozartian's time is the way Higginbottom makes his forces fit with the parts of the "Requiem" completed, mostly by Franz Xaver Süssmayr, after Mozart's death. The general consensus has been that the completion a) is less than fully satisfactory, but b) reflects something more than simply Süssmayr's best effort; he was present during Mozart's last days and, according to Constanze's testimony, discussed at least some ideas for the remainder of the work. Higginbottom's interpretation increases what might be called the likely Mozart content. He doesn't claim that all the music is Mozart's, which is manifestly not the case, but rather deploys the voices and the historical instruments in such a way as to make the best possible case for the later parts of the mass, to suppose that Mozart, so to speak, had participated in the first round of hacking down inchoate material to finished musical sculpture. And indeed these parts of the mass are quite fresh in the hands of these performers. Sample the Sanctus and Benedictus and note especially Higginbottom's subtle treatment of the period brasses, which in most modern-instrument readings come off as heavy and ham-handed in their writing. Does it make the case? You may say yes or no (or both on multiple hearings), but the performance is worth hearing out. Again, there's nothing here to close the book on the vexed question of how the "Requiem" should sound, and this is probably not a good recording for newcomers. For those who think they've heard it all in the "Requiem," though, it's recommended.
- Release Date:
- Nosag Records
Performance CreditsEdward Higginbottom Primary Artist
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