July 2003

Mozart Requiem (Revised and completed by Robert D. Levin)
Dorian Recordings CD DOR-90310
Released: 2002

by John Crossett

Musical Performance ****1/2
Recording Quality ****1/2
Overall Enjoyment *****

Music lovers thrive on a good debate, whether it’s about stylistic preference or overall performance -- in fact, I’d 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 it’s 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; didn’t his student Sussmeyer, under the oversight of Mozart’s widow Constanze, complete it for him? And hasn’t that effort stood the test of time these past 200+ years? Where does Levin get off thinking he could do any better?

Now, don’t 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, Sussmayr’s 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: "Mozart’s 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 Mozart’s fragment by placing it in a more focused light. As inadequate as such attempts must be, it is hoped that it will serve Mozart’s 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 won’t. This is about as good a CD as I’ve heard from Dorian, and I own more than a few of their previous efforts. I’ve seldom heard the sound of the Troy Savings Bank Hall more cleanly rendered. There’s detail aplenty for audiophiles to revel in. There’s 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 CD’s resolution limitations. I’d love to hear Dorian’s scheduled release of the SACD version of this work.

Whatever arguments you can raise regarding Levin’s rewriting of Mozart’s unfinished Requiem in D Minor, you’ll 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 Mozart’s own pen. As to whether or not it will become your favorite interpretation, well, that decision will be up to you. Me, I’m going to savor every moment I spend listening to this recording.