Alarcón, Leonardo García

Performance DetailsRelease DetailsReviews
Soprano: Lucy Hall
Mezzo-Soprano: Angélique Noldus
Tenor: Hui Jin
Bass-Baritone: Josef Wagner

Choir: Chœur de Chambre de Namur
Orchestra: New Century Baroque Orchestra
Conductor: Leonardo García Alarcón

Date: September 28 – October 2, 2012
Venue: Salle des fêtes, Bourg-en-Bresse, Ain, France

Label: Centre Culturel de Rencontre d’Ambronay
Cat No.: AMY 038
Released: April 23, 2013
The Requiem was never completed by Mozart at all, and the standard version for many years was that made by his pupil Süssmayr at the request of Mozart’s widow Constanze, who was anxious to obtain the commission that was due on the completion of the work. Initially there was some confusion as to how much of the work was Mozart’s and how much that of Süssmayr, but editions from the mid-nineteenth century onwards clearly identified the work of each composer. It was not until the mid-twentieth century, however, that new editions of the work began to appear, replacing Süssmayr’s sections of the score with alternatives founded in Mozart’s sketches. This procedure generated a good deal of controversy; it is not clear to what extent Mozart discussed his intentions for the work with Süssmayr, but the pupil may well have been given guidance by the master which should not be simply ignored. What we are given in this performance is by and large simply the sections of the score which Mozart is known to have substantially completed – which leaves out the whole of the Sanctus, Benedictus and Agnus Dei – with one exception. The Lacrymosa, which was left incomplete by Mozart, is here given in Süssmayr’s completion with the addition of an Amen fugue written by Richard Maunder and based on a Mozartean sketch which Süssmayr ignored. The result is somewhat odd – the Süssmayr conclusion ends with a bold choral Amen to which the ‘new’ fugue seems a rather perfunctory appendage. David Druce, in his edition of the score, takes the bolder step of recomposing the Süssmayr material to lead into the fugal material in a more organic – if perhaps less Mozartean – manner. What it all comes down to in this performance is whether the listener will want a recording in which the matter of completion (by whichever editor) is completely ignored and the work left as an inevitably incomplete torso. It has been suggested, for example, that the fugal Hosanna is based on a subject which Mozart himself suggested to Süssmayr – and if that is indeed the case, surely this passage at least should not simply be omitted. There are also one or two oddities in the edition of the score presented here. This basically follows the revised edition of 2005 by Hans Beyer, but the conductor explains that he has ‘completed’ the trumpet parts in the Dies irae and those for the trombones in the Offertorium. This doubling of the choral parts by trombones is dubious at best, especially when the results sometimes drown out the singers. The crescendo on the final chord, thrilling as it is as a conclusion to the performance, does not sound very Mozartean at all but more like a romantic excrescence on the score.

Nonetheless the performance is a thrilling one. The choir, an excellent body of two dozen singers, are lively and strong. Clearly they thoroughly enjoy themselves. The soloists, a well-blended team, are also nicely full-bodied and make no attempt to produce the sort of anaemic tone that sometimes is held to pass for authenticity. As in the concerto, one could really do with more body from the string players, but since so much of the thematic content is contained in the vocal and woodwind lines this is not as serious a problem as in the concerto, although this could also be the result of the different and more resonant recording venue.

In short, despite some reservations over the internal balances of the orchestra, this is a most enjoyable pair of performances. If the ingenious coupling appeals, lovers of period instruments will find much to give pleasure – more so in the Requiem than in Roger Norrington’s period performance which I reviewed recently.
— Paul Corfield Godfrey, MusicWeb International