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Berlioz: Requiem / Norrington, Spence, Stuttgart Rso, Et Al

Release Date: 06/13/2006 
Label:  Swr Music   Catalog #: 93131   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Hector Berlioz
Performer:  Toby Spence
Conductor:  Roger Norrington
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Leipzig Radio ChorusStuttgart Radio Symphony OrchestraSouthwest German Radio Vocal Ensemble
Number of Discs: 2 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 26 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

BERLIOZ Requiem Roger Norrington, cond; Toby Spence (ten); MDR RCh; SWR Vocal Ens; SWR SO Stuttgart HÄNSSLER 93.131 (2 SACDs: 87:14 Text and Translation) Live: Stuttgart 9/5/2003

Many recordings distinguish themselves by simply being deeper or more insightful than the others, of presenting a lifetime’s view of a work and its interpretation. Others distinguish themselves by revealing clarity of details or simply representing the essence of the music better than any other. Read more This recording scores on both counts.

Berlioz’s exceptionally hard-to-perform Requiem represents not only a technically difficult score but what amounts to a multimedia event. Four brass choirs play in the Dies irae from different corners of the performance venue; a tenor sings his Sanctus from all the way in the upper rear (either the upper stalls of a concert hall or the organ/choir loft of a church). When listening in person, it all comes together in an extraordinary way. Listening at home, the result tends to be a little flat.

What we have here is the ideal combination of musical values and hard-to-capture surround sound. Roger Norrington, an old hand at this tricky score by the time he gave this 2003 performance, has the full measure of the work’s musical values. The odd and occasionally unsettling contrasts of high, reedy winds (led usually by clarinets) set off against the deep cushion of basses and cellos are exceptionally well balanced. His use of two full choirs assures that they will be heard. And for once, his insistence on straight tone in the strings creates an eerie, otherworldly effect that is completely apropos to this music.

And then we have the excellent tenor soloist, whose voice is headily vibrant (quite unusual for a British tenor of the 21st century, but not at all out of place in French music), who is able to project his sound across the wide-open acoustic of the Schwetzinger Festspiele castle. No other tenor on a Berlioz Requiem recording in my experience, with the sole exception of the superb Stuart Burrows (with Bernstein), was ever able to do it better.

Even without SACD equipment (and I lack it), the wide-open space of this recording makes its mark again and again. You feel completely enveloped by the music, which was the composer’s intention. When Andrew Quint reviewed this disc for Fanfare, he gave it high marks. I place it at the very apex of Berlioz Requiem recordings. This is one for the ages.

FANFARE: Lynn René Bayley
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Works on This Recording

Grande messe des morts, Op. 5 by Hector Berlioz
Performer:  Toby Spence (Tenor)
Conductor:  Roger Norrington
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Leipzig Radio Chorus,  Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra,  Southwest German Radio Vocal Ensemble
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1837; France 
Date of Recording: 05/09/2003 
Venue:  Live  Liederhalle, Stuttgart, Germany 
Length: 86 Minutes 10 Secs. 
Language: Latin 

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