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A somber Requiem, but it never deeply touches us
on 3 November 2011
This is a Requiem that, in true Marriner fashion, avoids any trace of sentimentality, one that strives to maintain strict adherence to the score. Fans of Marriner will appreciate the sensitivity of his conducting, the excellence of the ASMF orchestra and chorus, and the superb soloists featured. Marriner has a calm, assured way with Mozart, which is apparent here. The music is allowed to be seen for what it is, with no fluff or show to get in the way.
However, anyone can make Mozart easy to listen to. And while I think Marriner knows how to do more than this, I find myself wanting a lot in this recording. Friends, this is a Requiem, written by a young genius who was facing the awful tragedy of death. Am I alone in wanting a performance of this piece that will leave me fighting the tears as I face the reality of the mortality of the human race? I tend to think not. But these qualities are the very ones that are lacking here. Marriner realizes to an extent that this is a Requiem, as there is always somberness in the air. But there's more than seriousness to a Requiem; there needs to be a combining of sorrow and hope. I want my Mozart Requiem to be given a performance that will make me want to turn to the piece when I've suffered the loss of a loved one. But listening to Marriner, I never once found myself deeply moved. Part of the problem may be due to the fact that while the Academy of Saint Martin in the Fields is a first rate chamber orchestra, they lack the richness and sonority of the likes of Berlin and Vienna, which prevents the strings from diving into a dark world of remorse. I hear technically perfect playing, but I'm not overly impressed by the actual musicality of the orchestra. Don't get me wrong: I love the orchestra, it's just that they don't seem up to par here, for some reason or another. Perhaps Phillips deserves a share of the blame, as the recording engineers certainly could have done a better job. The soloists, all first rate, add some light to the scene, but I don't think they make up for Marriner's faults.
I hope I won't be misunderstood. Marriner is a wonderful conductor, deserving the fame he's received in Mozart. But in the Requiem, he seems to be afraid of showing real emotion, as if though it would be undesirable if the music moved us to tears. Some will like this performance, not minding the missing passion, but you should pass this by if you want an experience that will deeply move you.