Daniel Barenboim

Mozart: Requiem; Bruckner: Te Deum

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Even though EMI counts Daniel Barenboim's 1971 recording of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's Requiem in D minor among the Great Recordings of the Century, it may not suit all listeners: whether one agrees with the choice or not depends on receptivity to the style of playing and the vintage of the recording. Bearing in mind that Barenboim leads the John Alldis Choir and the English Chamber Orchestra in the standard edition by Franz Xaver Süssmayer, and delivers a fairly conventional reading with few concessions to Classical period practice, this is a solid performance with few new revelations. In a time when recordings of scholarly editions and alternate completions of the Requiem are readily available, this reissue seems aimed at a more traditional audience that wants no fussing over the possibilities of what Mozart might have done. Since this rendition offers fine vocal solos from such greats as soprano Sheila Armstrong, mezzo-soprano Janet Baker, tenor Nicolai Gedda, and baritone Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, with hearty singing from the choir and crisply articulated playing from the orchestra, it might appeal more to fans of the performers than to serious students of Mozart's final work. However, everyone should be aware that the analog sound has a fair amount of hiss that digital mastering could not quite eliminate, and that the high end of the register is boosted, sometimes to an overly bright effect. The filler piece, Anton Bruckner's Te Deum, was performed by Barenboim and the New Philharmonia Chorus & Orchestra in 1969, and features soprano Anne Pashley, contralto Birgit Finnilä, tenor Robert Tear, and bass Don Garrard. This declamatory work fits rather well with the Requiem because it shares the same somber religious mood, but it is of secondary importance in musical substance, especially when compared with Mozart's masterpiece. The recording of the second performance is warm, clean, and somewhat more pleasant in sound quality than the main work. However, some out-of-tune humming -- perhaps Barenboim's? -- is detectable in several spots.

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