Reviews and occasional notes on classical music

Reviews and occasional notes on classical music

"Music, both vocall and instrumental, so good, so delectable, so rare, so admirable, so super excellent, that it did even ravish and stupifie all those strangers that never heard the like." - Thomas Coryat, after hearing 3 hours of music at the Scuola di San Rocco in Venice, 1608.

Monday, January 8, 2018

A theatrical, even cinematic Mozart Requiem

Mozart: Missa da Requiem

Arthur Schoonderwoerd has put together a Missa da Requiem based on the torso of the Requiem that remained when Mozart died in December of 1791, but fleshed out with additions by other composers, in the context of a full and well-researched contemporary liturgy. The Historically Informed Performance group Cristofori is completely at home in this repertoire, but the Gesualdo Consort is better known for Renaissance and early Baroque repertoire such as Gabrieli and Sweelinck. Schoonderwoerd uses contemporary Requiem Mass models and the fine points of what the plainchant-based recitative portions of the liturgy might have sounded like in late-18th century Vienna to create the kind of hypothetical performance that's very much in vogue among the HIP crowd lately.

I was suspicious at first of this scenario, since I believe the key to Mozart's Requiem is more likely to come by paying close attention to dramatic works like The Magic Flute and especially Don Giovanni, rather than a Requiem from the late 1770s by Michael Haydn. But when I heard this disc the very first time all my doubts were gone. This music has the dramatic blocking and theatrical shading that comes from the opera house rather than the cathedral, especially when compared with the standard version of the Requiem with its often jarring timpani and trumpet riffs added by Süßmayr. The chorus is especially nimble and alert to the nuances in the score. And there's a fascinating Libera me written around 1800 by Ritter Ignaz von Seyfried for a performance of the Mozart Requiem. It was performed after Beethoven's death as well, dedicated to the memory of both composers; this is its recording premiere.

More interesting is Arthur Schoonderwoerd's own Amen Double Fugue. I loved this chromatic Bachianas, whose jauntiness is reminiscent of Ward Swingle as much as Mozart. It's a vivid, almost cinematic interlude. It makes one think perhaps that this music might serve as the soundtrack of a future HIP remake of Miloš Forman's 1984 film Amadeus. I'd watch that!

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