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Dvořák's Requiem

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Dvořák, Requiem Mass, op. 98 / Brahms, Four Serious Songs, op. 121, Kantorei der Schlosskirche Weilburg, Capella Weilburgensis, Doris Hagel (released on October 31, 2006)
Antonín Dvořák's arch-Romantic take on the venerable Latin texts of the Requiem Mass (premiered in Birmingham, England, in 1891) hardly needs another recording. The appeal (some might say curse) of this new version is the latest evidence that the historically informed performance movement has annexed the music of the 19th century, as the players of the Capella Weilburgensis are performing on instruments from the 19th century. The Romantic vocabulary is quite similar to that of the Berlioz and Verdi Requiems, for example, with references to Czech folk music here and there. Dvořák's setting is not as dramatic as either of those examples (the Dies irae lasts a mere 2:40 and never raises the hair on the back of my neck), perhaps closer to the interior quality of settings by Fauré or Duruflé.

As far as making a decision about buying this recording, there are points that argue against it. This German recording has not been fully adapted for North American release: the texts in the liner notes are in Latin and German translation (Missa pro defunctis, with English translation) and in German only for the Brahms four serious songs that are paired with Dvořák. The sound has a sometimes distant quality, especially in the choral passages, and the performance is adequate from all forces but rarely excellent. Given the surfeit of recordings of the Dvořák, the Brahms Vier ernste Gesänge, op. 121 (1896), do little to raise this disc's appeal (recordings are also not exactly rare), nor does the performance of bass Klaus Mertens, who has admirable suavity of tone but is stretched thin in his top range. Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau and Thomas Quasthoff are still the benchmark in the Brahms, and Detlev Glanert's orchestration for this recording neither adds to nor takes away from the songs.

Profil - Edition Günter Hänssler PH06050


Anonymous said...

Why do you review Recordings that you do not recommended??

Charles T. Downey said...

As I think you know, often we do not, preferring only to spend time on things we like. Sometimes, however, we do write about recordings that we ultimately do not recommend, especially when there may be an expectation that it is a disc worth buying. I was interested in this recording and thought it might be excellent. Upon hearing it, I was somewhat disappointed. Other readers may want that information.