This is what I can only describe as a very Mozartian performance - and a superb one at that. Too many conductors treat the Mozart Requiem as a piece on the cusp of Romanticism, giving it a Beethovenian or even a Verdian gloss it doesn't need.
Britten's speeds are on the whole sprightly to fast, particularly so (as the reviewer below notes) in the Rex Tremendae. The authentic performance school was back in its vociferous infancy in 1971, but I wouldn't suggest for a moment that Britten was following their tenets. Rather, this is one composer's instinctive feel for how another's music should `go'. There is a wonderful rhythmic bounce to the Kyrie fugue and to Quam olim Abrahae, a transparent lightness to the Hostias, a seamless flow of liquid gold in the Benedictus and (Sussmayr or no Sussmayr) real heartbreak in the Lachrymosa that is achieved by intensity of expression not by a morbidly sluggish tempo. The orchestral balance, too, seems essentially and appropriately Mozartian - the trombone writing, for example, has never reminded me so much of Zauberflote.
The team of soloists are all part of the Britten/Aldeburgh rep and are so used to working together that they achieve a rare sense of ensemble in all those many passages where they hand melodic material from one to another. It seems invidious to single any of them out, but mention must be made of Heather Harper's glorious helping of soprano tone at the top of the concerted passages as well as in her solos. The Aldeburgh choir are fully alive to all Britten's demands and, although larger than we're used to in today's authentic performances, sufficiently lithe and responsive to cope incisively with the conductor's tempi.
If there's a criticism to be made of this cracking live performance caught on the wing, it is with the recorded sound - not really up to the BBC's standards in the early 70's. The dynamic range is a little constricted and the bigger ensembles end up feeling a bit congested and lacking in clarity.
The fill-up is a fascinating interview with Britten at the time that he was working on Owen Wingrave and is interesting for his views on how to achieve the best from opera on TV.
Another highly recommendable disc from the BBC's archives, if not necessarily a first choice for the Requiem because of the constricted sound.