Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Marie Arnet, Anna Stéphany,
Andrew Kennedy, and Darren Jeffery
Sir Colin Davis conducting the London Symphony Orchestra and Chorus
Review By Phil Gold
criticism? I'll give you criticism! This disc is only 50 minutes and 35
seconds long. There's not much else to complain about here.
Sir Colin Davis has been a top recommendation for
the Mozart Requiem since his BBC
Symphony recording in 1967. This, his third recording, is of a live performance
at the Barbican in London. It benefits from a high resolution multi-channel
recording and is available at bargain price as a hybrid SACD.
Sir Colin eschews the various new revisions to Süssmayer's
completion of Mozart's unfinished masterpiece and ignores the recent trend
toward original instrument performance practice. He opts instead for full
orchestra and large chorus, and opts for huge dynamics and fast tempi. It brings
to mind Carlo Maria Guilini's famous recording of the Verdi Requiem
in its operatic intensity. The young singers hold up splendidly.
This is a performance in full flood, the type you
would never capture in a recording studio. The choir is magnificent and full of
rich color, as is the orchestral playing. It is not only amazing in itself, but
all the more astonishing given the conductor's age. He was 80 at the time.
Davis has always been a superb Mozartean, and his career has been steeped in
opera and choral work. This is by a good margin the best of his three Requiem
recordings, musically and sonically. The purist may object, but if you are going
to play it with a full modern orchestra--a big if--this is the way to do it.
Davis captures the power and fury of Mozart that so enthralled Beethoven. He
takes extraordinary risks with his demands on the choir in particular, and they
never let him down. Oh I wish I could have been there!
Davis and the LSO put Harnoncourt's much
acclaimed 2004 SACD [harmonia mundi 82876-58705-2] to shame. Harnoncourt is
thoughtful and intelligent with great control of his smaller orchestra and
choir, but his equally dramatic playing lacks the natural flow and perfect
phrasing that distinguishes the finest Mozart interpreters. Davis has always had
these qualities, and he seems to improve with age.
The massive dynamics are captured in
scintillating rich sound but the recording balance is not always perfect. Some
parts of the choir are lower in volume than I expected, one soloist a little
more distant than the others, but we must remember this is a live performance.
The lower strings of the orchestra are not captured with ideal clarity--a bit
too reverberant for my taste--and sometimes they overshadow the other
instruments. All in all, these minor imperfections are a price I gladly pay for
the thrill of this white-hot live performance. We should be grateful the
audience is absolutely silent throughout.