Site review by mwagner1962 June 29, 2006
|"Oh my!!!" is all I can say on this recording!!! When it comes to requiems, I feel that the Berlioz Requiem is king of them all, yes, even over Verdi's totally moving Requiem.
Here is a recording that makes me feel that what we hear must be very close to what was heard at the premiere...that is, music that caused a priest to break down in tears...a member of the chorus to have a nervous breakdown. Of all my current three SACDs of Berlioz's Requiem (Spano/Atlanta/Telarc and Munch/Boston/Living Stereo) the Norrington is so far ahead of the Telarc and Living Stereo in sheer dramatic intensity that I am considering disposing of the Telarc, and permanently shelving the Munch.
I am simply going to highlight movements that are truly spine tingling, emotionally draining/exhilarating, hair raising, you name it...all the qualifications of what must have been a truly fabulous experience!!
Dies irae: despite some minor phasing issues with the antiphonal brass choirs (this is a live recording after all) this is a truly terrifying "day of judgement".....the initial tempo is the same as on the Spano and Munch, but suddenly, the tempo picks up and really adds to the drama!!! Tension ebbs and flows, with the choir and brass trading off with aplomb, despite the fear of God that the dies irae incurs.
Lacrymosa: Let's cut to the chace....this movement is my favorite!!! The syncopation on the opening is dramatic, exciting, and tops either the Spano or Munch. Balances between the choir and brass and winds (here Norrington's allowing the brass to really shine makes the Atlanta brass anemic and pitiful) is another one of this recording's hair raisers!! Enough said!!!!
Sanctus: Hey Hanssler...please give us more Tobey Spence!!!!! What a sublime, musical, lyrical, emotional rendition of a heavenly presentation!!!!
Agnus dei: all I will compliment here is the amazingly silent audience!!! There are many places where a poorly timed cough would have ruined the drama. Audience applause is a pleasant surprise (I will never object to applause on a live recording) and the response is rather obvious to me that they were as stunned by what they heard as I was!!!!
The sense of drama and emotion on this recording is almost palpable!!! Here is a recording that totally draws me into the performance, whereas the other two (especially the Spano) leave me checking the clock to see how much time is left.
The SWR Stuttgart and MDR Radio Choir Leipzig (the chorus on the Telarc is that recording's one saving grace) are top notch, full voiced, and well balanced with the orchestra (except when the orchestra is truly cranking) and has excellent sibilants. The Radio Symphony Orchestra Stuttgart SWR is well captured and presented, though I would like to see what the concert hall is like as sometimes the sound sometimes seems a touch close...this however does not affect my overall sound rating.
I beg Hanssler to do more SACDs!!! PLEASE!!! How about a Verdi Requiem, with Toby Spence??? Just please release more!!!
In closing, run to you nearest music store and buy this SACD!!!