Notes and Editorial Reviews
Rachel Yakar, soprano
Ortrun Wenkel, alto
Kurt Equiluz, tenor
Robert Holl, bass
Konzertvereinigung Wiener Staatsopernchor
Concentus Musicus Wien
In the celebratory Mozart Anniversary Year TDK presents a milestone of Mozart interpretation. Nikolaus Harnoncourt, who is well known for his renewals of readings of the pre-Classical repertoire and an acclaimed master of Mozart interpretation, presented “his” Requiem in 1981. He used period instruments and a cast of singers experienced in authentic performance practice to introduce a new version of the orchestration. This new orchestration was prepared in 1972 and received its Viennese premiere at this concert in the
Golden Hall of the Vienna Musikverein, a setting familiar to millions of television viewers from the Vienna Philharmonic’s annual New Year Concerts.
Natural trumpets, hand horns, an early 18th-century set of timpani) and two basset-horns blended with the woodwinds and strings in a novel way, and influenced the vocal aspect of the work, affecting the dynamics of the performance and even the choice of tempi. Even after a quarter of a century, the listener can still be thrilled by the attention with which the soloists and members of the Vienna State Opera Chorus react to these different sounds and to the often unfamiliar phrasing of the Concentus Musicus, whose players support the conductor’s interpretation with great commitment.
In addition to the musical revelation, this concert is visually impressive. Harnoncourt, conducting without a baton, focuses intensely on the musicians and singers while at the same time seeming to be drawn into the music. One of the cameras shows him from the musicians’ point of view and we see him as a highly concentrated motivator, who makes use of telling gestures and vivid facial expressions. Harnoncourt lives through the dynamics and the tempi and this special perspective alone makes this carefully retrieved film from the Austrian Television ORF archives a valuable supplement to the mere audio recording.
Nikolaus Harnoncourt was one of the first conductors and musicologists to start off a movement to free Renaissance, Baroque and pre-Classical music of the sentimentality that had come to cover the periods’ own musical language.
In 1953, while still working as a cellist in the Vienna Philharmonic, he founded the Concentus Musicus Vienna an ensemble that plays exclusively on period instruments together with his wife, violinist Alice Harnoncourt. As a conductor, Harnoncourt soon moved on to the works of Viennese Classicism, whose original sounds he sought to recreate. After his highly successful cycle of Monteverdi operas in Zurich, he began a Mozart cycle at the same house. Starting with Idomeneo in 1980, he went on to add Mozart’s other main operas, presenting them in a style that differed substantially from what was usual at that time.
Today Harnoncourt is regarded as one of the leading conductors of his age, at home in a repertory that embraces not only the great symphonies of Brahms, Dvorák and Bruckner and the operas of Haydn, Mozart and Schubert but also such popular favourites as Aida, Carmen and even Die Fledermaus.
The first half of this concert was evidently designed to put listeners in the right frame of mind for the day as a whole and for Mozart’s Requiem in particular: it comprised a performance of Bach’s Cantata 161, Komm, du süße Todesstunde, in which two solo singers (alto Ortrun Wenkel and tenor Kurt Equiluz) and a four-part choir are set against an instrumental ensemble made up of strings, organ and continuo, together with two concertante recorders. Harnoncourt’s vast experience in this field – he recorded all Bach’s sacred cantatas together with Gustav Leonhardt, the Concentus Musicus and various chamber choirs – is also impressively documented here.
Picture Format: 4:3 full screen
Region Code: 0 (all) Running Time: 55 minutes + 21 minutes bonus)
Works on This Recording
Requiem in D minor, K 626 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Ortrun Wenkel (Alto),
Rachel Yakar (Soprano),
Kurt Equiluz (Tenor),
Robert Holl (Bass)
Vienna Concentus Musicus
Written: 1791; Vienna, Austria
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