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MOZART - REQUIEM / BBCSO / COLIN DAVIS CD MADE IN GERMANY 1998
Top Customer Reviews
I say "a kind of ideal" insofar as some allowance must be made for both the sound, which is good for its age but hardly the match for a quality digital recording, and also for a performance style completely innocent of Period influence. Nonetheless, Colin Davis had already the year before given us a recording of Handel's "Messiah" which seemed to usher in a lighter, more "sprung" performance style which has stood the test of time and this recording is similarly ageless. There is nothing ponderous or stodgy about Davis's direction here; this is a really powerful, dramatic account and he is aided and abetted by a superbly energised and incisive chorus in the John Alldis Choir. Their articulation if runs is especially precise and yo can hear them giving their all in the forte passages. As a solo voice man, I don't usually start by appraising the choir in this work, but they really deserve star billing.
However, the soloists are in fact top rate, too. I have never heard Welsh tenor Ryland Davies, who had an appreciable career, sing with more strength and expression, and he is a considerable improvement over his fellow Welsh Tenor Robert Tear for Marriner a decade later, Tear being the weak link in an otherwise appreciable recording.Read more ›
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
I suppose it is mainly a matter of the recording. This is perhaps surprising, as Davis's dates from as far back as 1967, Giulini's from 11 years later. There's not a lot in it so far as the orchestral sound goes, the difference is in the recording of the voices, particularly the chorus. I have no idea what remastering may have been done since 1967, but the clarity of the words on this disc is nearly startling - they are as clear as on some of the most recent sets of Handel himself, surely the ultimate master of vocal writing. As usual with the Penguin Classics series, under whose aegis this disc is issued in England, the texts are not provided, but you would hardly need them here unless you also need a translation. Another point that struck me forcibly was that both maestros have a very similar idea of the proper tempi in this work. One is a little faster in this movement and not quite so fast as the other in the next, but the divergence is not great anywhere, and in a work lasting the best part of an hour the overall difference is only 40 seconds. These tempi are my own idea of admirably judged, and if that makes them both slower than the general run of performances, as I have seen suggested, then it may be the general run that needs a little rethinking.
However I believe that the recorded quality partly highlights some aspects where Davis outdoes even Giulini in the actual performance. To my ears, there is a definite sense of greater majesty at the start of the Sanctus here, and I'm in no doubt at all that Davis achieves more drama and power when he leads off the Dies irae - this is really quite exceptionally effective. Indeed I'd say that there is not a weak spot from start to finish. That sublime start makes its effect as it should, Davis puts up a very good show in passing off the appalling Tuba mirum section (which is not by Mozart and threatens to let down the entire masterpiece) with a semblance of dignity, the soloists are flawless so far as I noticed, the chorus are well served by the recording and admirable in their own right, and I have no fault to find with the BBC Symphony Orchestra.
In the Penguin Classics series under which this disc is issued in England the accompanying essay is by D M Thomas. As normal with other examples of this series that I own, it is an essay by a distinguished author, suggested by but not specifically relating to the music. Thomas writes simply, candidly and movingly about the death of his wife from cancer, how he returned from a visit to her sick-bed and played a recording of Mozart's Requiem, and the thoughts and reflections that it evoked in him. As is also standard practice in this series, the words are not provided. There is nonetheless a short note on the music itself, as usual stopping short of stating clearly which parts of the work are, or are believed to be, from the hand of Mozart's pupil Suessmayr after the master's own death.
It may be that the comment I saw shortly after obtaining this record was not typical, and it's certainly the case that what I have seen since is much more favourable in tone. As far as I'm concerned this is an admirable set of a work whose greatness is of a unique kind, and whether or not I was guided mainly by parsimony in my original choice I did not go wrong, and neither will you if you choose it.
ARTISTIC IMPRESSIONS AND THOUGHTS
Sir Colin's tempi and accentuations are strong, and purposeful, as he allows the ultimate drama , the end of one's life, to unfold as perhaps it should. Nothing feels pushed, forced nor cohersed, but the tragedy reveals itself gradually and in a pacing that is easy to keep up with. Majesty is head throughout this masterpiece, left, as we all know, unfinished after on a few bars of the "Lacrimosa," but finished by one fof his pupils, Franz Xavier Sussmeyer, within a year of the Great One's death.
The "Recordare, Confutatis, Lacrimosa" sequence is the pinnacle of the entire work and Davis always seems to apply just the right amount of weight to the music, as his transition into the Lacrimosa segment is flawless. I can't help from encoring it at least once. The rest of the requiem maintains the momentum from ghe baton of the late Sir Colin, whom I admired and promoted in any discussion of music and the interpreters, Known chiefly, for his Berlioz, and his Sibelius, Sir Colin Davis always had something to say on the subject of the great Saltzburg prodigy as this 1967 disc attests to.
Simply put, in closing, this is a must have and for a sensational price as well. Viewed as a whole, this Penguin Classics CD is right on the mark and a sure-fire choice for anyone's library. Get
yours today! Best wishes and much happy listening
, and a big God bless you, all, Tony.
A. M. D. G.
I say "a kind of ideal" insofar as some allowance must be made for both the sound, which is good for its age but hardly the match for a quality digital recording, and also for a performance style completely innocent of Period influence. Nonetheless, Colin Davis had already the year before given us a recording of Handel's "Messiah" which seemed to usher in a lighter, more "sprung" performance style which has stood the test of time and this recording is similarly ageless. There is nothing ponderous or stodgy about Davis's direction here; this is a really powerful, dramatic account and he is aided and abetted by a superbly energised and incisive chorus in the John Alldis Choir. As a solo voice man, I don't usually start by appraising the choir in this work, but they really deserve star billing.
However, the soloists are in fact top rate, too. I have never heard Welsh tenor Ryland Davies, who had an appreciable career, sing with more strength and expression, and he is a considerable improvement over his fellow Welsh Tenor Robert Tear for Marriner a decade later, Tear being the weak link in an otherwise appreciable recording. All the soloists - and indeed the choir - have a gift for enlivening the text of the liturgy but they also have superb voices, Helen Donath soaring sweetly and Yvonne Minton bringing real class and incisiveness to the alto line. I hear the vocal lines more clearly here than in almost any other version I own. The quartet is underpinned by the steady, saturnine bass of Bayreuth stalwart Gerd Nienstedt, who is commanding in his "Tuba mirum". I am at a loss to understand why a respected fellow reviewer finds the music in that section sub-par; for me it is a highlight, especially sung this well, and I don't care who wrote or elaborated it.
The BBC SO plays beautifully and the whole recording exudes a sense of occasion and purpose. Available for pennies, this belongs in the collection of everyone captivated by this extraordinary and poignant work.