Helmut Koch / Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra

Mozart: Requiem

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In a time when authentic Classical practices and scholarly editions of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's Requiem in D minor are considered de rigueur, it's instructive to hear how this work was sometimes performed in the middle of the 20th century, before the advent of historically informed performances. Helmut Koch led the Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra and Chorus in this 1962 performance, and with an exaggerated sense of reverence and an emphatically serious expression, they gave this work a stodgy and weighty reading that many listeners will find dreadfully sluggish, particularly in comparison with most period-style recordings. Aside from the conventionally fast Kyrie (and corresponding Cum Sanctis), a stormy Dies Irae, and an uncharacteristically speedy Sanctus, the tempos are consistently slow to the point of turgidity, and the music never has a chance to rise to seraphic heights with the thickness of the choruses. Perhaps most egregious to modern ears is the soprano's excessive vibrato in the Introit and the Lux Aeterna, which makes her solos the least attractive passages in the recording. Add to the general heaviness of the performance the inferior recorded sound (which in fortissimo choral sections is overloaded and distorted) and most listeners will reject this as a poor option when there are so many cleaner and brighter recordings available.

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