William Dart: Requiem Realisations

By William Dart

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King's College Mozart Requiems. Photo / Supplied
King's College Mozart Requiems. Photo / Supplied

Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra will be giving us Mozart's Requiem for its annual Choral Masterpiece concert in September. An enterprising new release from the Choir of King's College, Cambridge, would be a worthwhile investment for concertgoers who wish to become familiar with the composer's final masterpiece.

Seasoned Mozart enthusiasts will also enjoy this incandescent performance, conducted by Stephen Cleobury.

Recorded "at home" in the superb acoustics of King's College Chapel, this features boy choristers in place of women, with seraphic results in the Confutatis.

They also blend well with the clear tones of soprano Elin Manahan Thomas.

The Academy of Ancient Music provides the accompaniment; and who could resist the thrill of a genuine 18th century trombone setting off the Tuba Mirum - even more so when followed by the stirring bass of Christopher Purves.

What could be more dramatic than tenor James Gilchrist's impassioned entry with Mors stupebit et natura (Death will be astonished and nature too)?

Not only do Cleobury and his singers give us a sterling Requiem in the standard Sussmayr edition, but five extra tracks offer bonus "realisations".

Here, various scholarly pens offer new possibilities for passages left incomplete by the composer.

Some names are more familiar than others. Robert D. Levin's Cum sanctis tuis reminds one that this American's edition of the Requiem has received a number of performances in this country.

Duncan Druce's Benedictus is over two minutes longer than the "original".

An extended introduction, featuring a marvellous entwining of basset horns, takes us to a radically rewritten vocal quartet, rounded off with an extended fugue in Osanna in excelsis.

A less expected name is Michael Finnissy, a British composer best known in contemporary music circles. Finnissy takes the stand of "what if Mozart had lived a little longer?"

His Lacrimosa is pure Bellini bel canto, luminously scored, showcasing some ravishing singing from Thomas and Gilchrist.

The second disc of this generous set is a 66-minute audio documentary.

Crisply presented by soprano Thomas, this offers background to the work with fascinating commentary on both earlier composers that influenced Mozart and later retouchings, all with relevant musical illustrations.

Classic CD

Mozart: Requiem Realisations (King's College)
Verdict: "Mozart's final masterpiece resonates triumphantly in King's College, Cambridge."
Stars: 5/5

- NZ Herald

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