- Requiem No. 7 for soloists, chorus & ensemble ("Kaiserrequiem"), K. 51-53
The name of Johann Joseph Fux is known today mostly for his still-in-use counterpoint textbook Gradus ad Parnassum, and Johann Caspar Kerll is accounted a minor Viennese follower of Carissimi whom you might encounter if you take a course devoted to Baroque music. Yet both the works heard here expose sides of the Baroque not known to those who study only the High Baroque Italian, German, and English works. Fux's "Requiem" was written for a major function, the funeral of Eleonora de Gonzaga, the widow of Holy Roman Emperor Leopold II, and it was reused for other court funerals. Kerll's work, by contrast, is a more intimate piece that seems to have had no external stimulus and to have been written with his own death in mind (unlike Mozart's "Requiem in D minor, K. 626," despite the rumors). The Kerll mass, with the voices often breaking down into duets and trios, is more successfully performed here. Sample the "Sanctus" (track 5) to hear the chamber-like quality of this mass, with its distinctive harmonic progressions. The multi-sectional "Sequence," as discussed in the informative booklet, may or may not have been part of the mass to begin with, but it works effectively here. The Fux "Requiem" must have been a grand work in its time, but little of that grandeur, or even of the basic structural contrast between solo and ripieno vocal group, comes through in this underpowered performance, with just two singers per part. The size of the St. Stephen's Kantorei in Haydn's time, with six boy sopranos alone, would suggest a larger group, or at least one that did not blend into the scenery as much as those of the Vox Luminis vocal ensemble do. The viol ensemble L'achéron under Lionel Meunier has a fine, hushed tone; the larger Scorpio Collectief in the Fux seems to have to rein itself in. The sound, from a pair of Belgian churches, is superb.