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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Classic recording of a most imposing and unforgettable Requiem, 1 Sept. 2012
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Philoctetes (England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Dvorák: Requiem (Audio CD)
Back in the day I had my socks blown off by Sawallisch's Supraphon recording. That's a terrific double-album but the 1959 Ancerl is great too, with a fervour that can only come from an analogue world and also that certain special something which certain classic records of the '50s and '60s contain. At least three of the soloists are extremely distinguished singers of the time - Maria Stader, Ernst Haefliger and the velvety Kim Borg (Barbirolli's bass for The Dream Of Gerontius). Stader and Haefliger were born for such sacred music. Presiding over the grand occasion is the superb Karel Ancerl.

People often point up the influence of Verdi's Requiem upon Dvorak's setting, but I hear plenty of Beethoven in the great waves of sound and all conquering fugues. A Mass for the Dead it may be, but Dvorak's is always a smiling countenance in the face of suffering; having said that, the music in this composition is surprisingly stern and tragic for the great Czech composer, and fans of Suk's Asrael Symphony will definitely want to hear this, the source of the trumpet motif that features so prominently in the second movement of the symphony that was a requiem for Dvorak himself.
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12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A REQUIEM TOO FAR, 9 July 2007
By 
DAVID BRYSON (Glossop Derbyshire England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Dvorák: Requiem (Audio CD)
Among settings of the liturgical text of the Requiem mass, Dvorak's has never been a crowd-puller like Mozart's or Verdi's or Faure's, and sadly I can't say I'm surprised. Shaw called the work `beyond belief uninspired' and I wish I thought he was exaggerating. Dvorak may have been under some pressure from the Birmingham Festival to come up with a big choral composition, but to this day it defeats me why he thought that this slow-moving and lugubrious behemoth of a Requiem was likely to fill the bill so soon after Verdi's blazing masterpiece to the same text. However this is a review of the performance and the production, not of the music, and those are in general very good indeed. The liner-note, by John Warrack in the set as I have it, is sound but plodding, as if to be in the spirit of the thing, but the performance, and particularly the contribution of the soloists, is excellent. The recording is not bad at all for 1959, and it is only the over-forward balance given to the solo voices, together with a touch of hardness now and again in their tone and a slight sense of strain in some of the louder sections (e.g. Quam olim Abrahae), that stops me from awarding the set the full 5 stars.

The music of the Requiem seems to me to improve towards the end, particularly in the first part of the Offertorium and in the second setting of the Pie Jesu, at both which points the sound recalls Verdi. It also seems to come to life where I would not have expected it to, with the musically unpromising text Quam olim Abrahae promisisti, and to retain some of this livelier spirit in the Sanctus. However what makes this set recommendable just on its own is the filler item, 6 of the 10 settings of the Psalms from Dvorak's op 99. These are heartfelt and moving, solemn for the most part but finishing with the ever-lovely Singet ein neues Lied, in which Dvorak's unmistakable voice is heard clearly for the first time. These performances date from 1960, and they give us another reminder of what Fischer-Dieskau amounted to in his wonderful prime, beautifully accompanied by Demus. There is a very slight roughness to the sound in the earlier numbers, but it seems to disappear later, and to me it is insignificant beside singing and musicianship of this order, with that glorious voice heard to full effect.

Just a pity about that Requiem really. The full texts of the Latin there and the German in the songs are given with English translations. The Latin is very accurately printed, the only error being `praestra' for `praesta' in the Dies Irae. There are only two mistakes in the translation, both minor - the last phrase of the Gradual means `he will not fear evil from the hearing'; and in the Offertory `lest' is wrong. These two phrases are not dependent on `Deliver them' but are separate propositions `let hell not swallow them, let them not fall into darkness', after which the `And' will not make good sense, and no wonder considering the Latin says `but'.

I had no version of the Requiem before, mainly because I did not want one, but this is a good one and it can be recommended to anyone, whatever they think of the piece as music. As for the Biblical songs, I make a joyful noise to the Lord.
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Dvorák: Requiem
Dvorák: Requiem by Antonín Dvorák (Audio CD - 2011)
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