Karl Böhm

Mozart: Requiem, KV 626

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Karl Böhm is presented with the Vienna Symphony Orchestra in this 1956 recording of the Requiem in D minor, K. 526, a historic recording on Archipel that should not be mistaken for the 1955 recording reissued on Orfeo with the same conductor and chorus, but with the Vienna Philharmonic and a different quartet of vocal soloists. One of the great Mozart conductors of the twentieth century, Böhm was inclined to bring out the pathos and tenderness of the Requiem over its drama, so this soulful interpretation tends toward the gentle side, with lingering tempos and long-breathed phrases that emphasize the melancholy of the work, rather than dread of the grave or terror of the Last Judgment. Of course, slower tempos mean that the singing requires greater breath control, and in some spots soprano Teresa Stich-Randall, contralto Ira Malaniuk, tenor Waldemar Kmentt, and bass Kurt Böhme have to exert a bit of effort to sustain their longest notes. There is also a pronounced feeling of sluggishness in the faster choruses, which sound really heavy to ears accustomed to period performances with brisker pacing; but this mid-century performance predates the early music movement by a couple of decades, and Böhm's reverently constrained beat was not out of the mainstream. In terms of audio, this mono recording is remarkably clean and free of analog hiss and distortion, but it is lacking in dimensions and is somewhat compressed; even so, once one has adjusted to the limitations, this is a remarkably realistic recording for its day and quite clear at a raised volume. The bonus track of Beethoven's Choral Fantasy in C major, Op. 80, with pianist Hans Richter-Haaser, is a recording from 1957 that shows Böhm and the Vienna Symphony in good form, and the sound is comparable to that of the Requiem, though with a brighter, translucent quality in the woodwinds.

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