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Discussion: Mozart: Requiem - Harnoncourt

Posts: 4

Post by Omweso January 28, 2014 (1 of 4)
Controversial perhaps, but here is my review:

The SACD format cannot save the results of poor microphone placement, an under-rehearsed choir and a poor post-production edit (if there was one at all).

Problems:
- This has all the hallmarks of a single-take, rather than the best of several performances
- Choir is under-rehearsed: many lines start weak as singers are unsure. Sibilant consonants ('S's & 'T's) are inconsistent.
- The choir is muddy, the result of poor microphone placement. The poor basses are inaudible (and I am singing that part in our choir at the moment - this recording is useless for my practice)
- The mix is poor - the whole choir is right-sided and far away, with the instruments too near, and too dominant for a choral piece.
- The Alto microphone is faulty and cannot handle forte sections, it actually breaks up during the big Lacrimosa 'Amen'

Yuk!

Brian

Post by canonical January 28, 2014 (2 of 4)
Why not post it as a review? This site needs more balanced reviews.

I don't seem to have it anymore. In another review:

Mozart: Requiem - Böhm,

... I wrote of the Harnoncourt:

"Harnoncourt's SACD version was not to my taste at all, and decidedly mediocre"

I think it was so bad, I got rid of it. But his Bach Christmas Oratorio is very good:

Bach: Christmas Oratorio - Harnoncourt

P.S. The recording notes on sa-cd.net note that the Harnoncourt Requiem is a live 2003 recording ... which may explain a lot.

Post by Cicero February 1, 2014 (3 of 4)
Omweso said:

The SACD format cannot save the results of poor microphone placement, an under-rehearsed choir and a poor post-production edit (if there was one at all).

Problems:
- This has all the hallmarks of a single-take, rather than the best of several performances
- Choir is under-rehearsed: many lines start weak as singers are unsure. Sibilant consonants ('S's & 'T's) are inconsistent.
- The choir is muddy, the result of poor microphone placement. The poor basses are inaudible (and I am singing that part in our choir at the moment - this recording is useless for my practice)
- The mix is poor - the whole choir is right-sided and far away, with the instruments too near, and too dominant for a choral piece.
- The Alto microphone is faulty and cannot handle forte sections, it actually breaks up during the big Lacrimosa 'Amen'

Yuk!

Brian

Since this was also posted as a review, here are my comments. I have listened in stereo, both via loudspeakers and through headphones:

Not the most transparent or analytical recording, but a fair representation of a live concert in the reverberant acoustic of Vienna's Musikvereinssaal. If you want a "practice recording", look elsewhere. This has the feeling of a real live performance, and most takes may actually come from one single performance, but I have no reason to doubt that this SACD is the result of several performances (which at any rate is what the booklet claims.) The choir is placed behind the orchestra, but not excessively so. The soloists and some instruments are spot-miked, but I have heard many examples of much worse sound-staging.

The choir, which must have sung the Requiem countless times, is not under-rehearsed. Their performance may be more tentative, more malleable, than is the norm, but that seems an interpretative choice, very much in line with the conductor's approach to this music. The treatment of sibilant consonants is very much a matter of taste and debate among choral singers and conductors. The choir is not muddy, and is spread across the sound stage, and the basses are audible. The latter could perhaps be a little more prominent in the mix; overall the recording is somewhat weak in bass extension, a problem of many live performances.

I do not hear any faulty microphones or excessively poor microphone placement and wonder whether the OP's views may be a reflection of what he hears or doesn't hear on his hifi equipment, rather than of the engineers' work.

Three people thought the OP's review helpful - yuk indeed.

Post by nucaleena February 1, 2014 (4 of 4)
Cicero said:

Since this was also posted as a review, here are my comments.

+1.

I have cherished this disc for many years now and agree v. much with Cicero's measured comments. Equally significantly the performance has always struck me as both inspirational and inspired.

Closed