Notes and Editorial Reviews
For those who pay attention to and care about these things, this is the Robert Levin edition of Mozart's beloved and nearly-recorded-to-its-own-death Requiem. How many versions of the work--in editions varying from the "original" and "modified" Süssmayr to those by Robbins Landon, Beyer, and Maunder--are there in the catalog? If you count full-price and budget reissues, there are more than 80 available. However, this one from Bernard Labadie and his Les Violons du Roy and La Chapelle de Québec, recorded live in September 2001 at Dorian's home base in Troy, NY, is one of only three (that I'm aware of) using Levin's sensible, thoughtful, and expertly worked out version of Mozart's unfinished score. For
listeners used to the most commonly performed Süssmayr edition, you'll find that Levin's retains the traditional version only "insofar as it agrees with idiomatic Mozartean practice". This approach, which seeks to "revise as little as possible", leads Levin to provide "more transparent instrumentation", a "light retouching" of the Lacrimosa, followed not by Süssmayr's oddly abrupt plagal "Amen", but instead by a fully worked out fugue (based on a famous manuscript fragment found in 1962), and numerous other changes, both strikingly noticeable (the structure and scoring of the Benedictus; a newly composed Hosanna fugue) and relatively minor (clarifications and corrections of obvious errors in scoring and voice leading). Those interested in learning more regarding Levin's rationale and specifics of his alterations, recompositions, and substitutions will find details in the disc's extensive and helpful liner notes.
And what about the performances? Well, if you accept the legitimacy of this version of the score, you could just stop right here, get yourself a copy of this recording and be perfectly happy. It's as good an account as anyone has offered so far--in fact, in overall interpretive conception, ensemble clarity (both chorus and orchestra), and quality of solo quartet, this one just slightly outshines either Martin Pearlman's quicker-paced, period-instrument Levin version (Telarc) or Helmut Rilling's larger-scaled modern-instrument reading (Hänssler), even though both of these are quite fine in their own right. As he has so often shown in other contexts--live performances of Bach's St. Matthew Passion and Handel's Messiah, for example--Labadie has a consummate understanding of the internal components of the larger structure--tempo, harmonic progressions, phrases, and climaxes--and a feel for the work's inherently dramatic character that confirms a natural flow and coherence to the whole piece (qualities that also make Labadie an excellent opera conductor). This is no small feat in this case, for Mozart's Requiem usually--and with good reason--sounds more like a collection of movements than a convincingly unified composition. Given the above, it's easy to see why Labadie chose Levin's edition: it's the one that most successfully addresses the problems of logical musical transitions from movement to movement (yes, Levin occasionally does make certain harmonic adjustments, changing a key or otherwise "effecting" a modulation).
Labadie's choir is second to none--clear-voiced, uniform in tone, exceptionally well-balanced, articulate, technically sound, expressively versatile--and likewise his orchestra, which has distinguished itself on many previous recordings for the Dorian label. The virtuosity of all concerned can be immediately appreciated in the searing "Dies irae"--one minute and 41 seconds of whirling terror. Although this is a live recording, made from one evening's performance on the group's tour to its eventual New York City destination, it's remarkably free of glitches, slips, or inconvenient imbalances--a tribute to the musicians as well as to Dorian's engineers. Okay, I noticed one or two intonational imperfections (sopranos), an occasional passage where I wished for more detail from a choral line (parts of the Kyrie, for example), and an unfortunate electronic crackle near the end of the Kyrie--but ultimately this is a really fine production and a faithful record of a memorable concert, its significance for audience and performers alike heightened by the shattering events that occurred only nine days prior to this September 20th performance.
--David Vernier, ClassicsToday.com Read less
Works on This Recording
Requiem in D minor, K 626 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Nathan Berg (Bass Baritone),
Karina Gauvin (Soprano),
Marie-Nicole Lemieux (Alto),
John Tessier (Tenor)
Les Violons du Roy,
La Chapelle de Quebec
Written: 1791; Vienna, Austria
Date of Recording: 09/20/2001
Venue: Live Troy Savings Bank Music Hall, Troy, NY
Length: 52 Minutes 55 Secs.
Notes: This selection has been revised and completed by Robert D. Levin.
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