Music lovers thrive on a good debate, whether its about stylistic preference or overall performance -- in fact, Id rate them second only to audiophiles on the contention scale. That being the case, both groups should have a field day with Dorian Recordings new CD of Mozart's Requiem In D Minor as performed by Les Violons du Roy and the La Chapelle de Quebec under the baton of Bernard Labadie.
Because its been redone -- revised and completed -- by Robert D. Levin.
Sacre bleu! I can hear the screams now. How dare anyone fiddle with Mozart? So what that he left the piece unfinished; didnt his student Sussmeyer, under the oversight of Mozarts widow Constanze, complete it for him? And hasnt that effort stood the test of time these past 200+ years? Where does Levin get off thinking he could do any better?
Now, dont blow a gasket. Just give it a listen. You might be surprised.
A full and detailed explanation of how and what Levin accomplished in his reconstructive efforts is beyond the scope of this review. For that, you simply need to read the highly informative liner notes. Suffice to say he delved deeply in all remaining original Mozart manuscripts, Sussmayrs work, as well as that of Joseph Eybler, who Constanze initially commissioned to finish the Requiem (but who quit, feeling the task too much for him!).
To quote Levin from the liner notes: "Mozarts unfinished Requiem presents a breathtaking tableau of Baroque and Classical style. The present completion seeks a stylistically idiomatic restoration that fully respects its 200-year history. All of the changes seek to emphasize the spiritual and dramatic power of Mozarts fragment by placing it in a more focused light. As inadequate as such attempts must be, it is hoped that it will serve Mozarts spirit while honoring his craftsmanship." I like to think he accomplished his goal.
If the rewriting of the Requiem in D Minor raises the hackles of music lover/audiophiles everywhere, the sound wont. This is about as good a CD as Ive heard from Dorian, and I own more than a few of their previous efforts. Ive seldom heard the sound of the Troy Savings Bank Hall more cleanly rendered. Theres detail aplenty for audiophiles to revel in. Theres a lushness and flow to the music that will have Mozart fanatics bubbling with pleasure. The sense of space is excellent, as is the tone of the instruments. And the choir and soloists stand out as separate from the orchestra. About the only negative I could hear was a lack of fullness, three-dimensionality as it were, in both the chorus and orchestra. But that problem could very well be laid at the feet of Redbook CDs resolution limitations. Id love to hear Dorians scheduled release of the SACD version of this work.
Whatever arguments you can raise regarding Levins rewriting of Mozarts unfinished Requiem in D Minor, youll have to admit he got the sense of Mozart style just about right, allowing the music to flow, uninterrupted, as if it were all from Mozarts own pen. As to whether or not it will become your favorite interpretation, well, that decision will be up to you. Me, Im going to savor every moment I spend listening to this recording.
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