Dvorak - Requiem
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Cat No: LPH016
Number of Discs: 2
Release Date: 20th April 2015
Collegium Vocale Gent
Royal Flemish Philharmonic Orchestra
This work, dating from 1890, is one of those that marked a new phase in the composer’s musical creation, in which he recognized himself ‘as much a poet as well as a musician’. In addition, this reveals the veritable nature of a composer without constraint, probably being neither a commission nor an occasional work.
Philippe Herreweghe offers us an interpretation as dense and concentrated as the writing of this masterpiece requires.
1Requiem - I. Introitus (Requiem aeternam - Kyrie eleison)
2Requiem - II. Graduale (Requiem aeternam)
3Requiem - III. Sequentia (Dies irae)
4Requiem - IV. Sequentia (Tuba miram)
5Requiem - V. Sequentia (Quid sum miser)
6Requiem - VI. Sequentia (Recordare, Jesu pie)
7Requiem - VII. Sequentia (Confutatis maledictis)
8Requiem - VIII. Sequentia (Lacrimosa)
9Requiem - IX. Offertorium (Domine Jesu Christe)
10Requiem - X. Offertorium (Hostias)
11Requiem - XI. Sanctus - Benedictus
12Requiem - XII. Pie Jesu
13Requiem - XIII. Agnus Dei
Having already made a highly acclaimed recording of Dvořák's Stabat mater in 2012, it was natural that Philippe Herreweghe and his Collegium Vocale Ghent should turn their attentions to the Requiem, and if anything the results are even more impressive. As before, they team up with the Royal Flanders Philharmonic, of which Herreweghe is principal conductor. Two soloists – soprano Ilse Eerens and tenor Maximilan Schmidt – return from the line-up that recorded the Stabat mater, and they're joined by bass Nathan Berg, and long-time Herreweghe collaborator Bernarda Fink singing alto, to make up a superbly matched quartet.
From the very outset, amid the hushed intensity of the work's semitonal 'motto' theme, it's obvious that this is a performance of exquisitely nuanced hues, and this is as true of the imposing tuttis of the Dies irae sequence as it is of the operatic-style quartet of the Recordare (movement 6), and the exquisite textures of the Hostias and Pie Jesu. Herreweghe's experience in the field of early music shows in an unusually exciting fugue at the words Quam olim Abrahae in the first section of the Offertory: here one senses Brahms's German Requiem is not so far in the background.
Of the soloists, Eerens is wonderfully ethereal, while Schmidt's solos are especially sweet-toned. The Royal Flanders Philharmonic are both sympathetic and characterful, not least the woodwind section, who so often bring out hints of Czech flavours in the scoring. But it is the sheer professionalism and variety of shading brought to the choral writing by the Collegium Vocale that is the real highlight here. Just sixty voices strong, it is somewhat smaller than the choral societies for which Dvořák conceived the work, yet it packs an enormous emotional punch, as well as a dynamic and expressive refinement that would elude most larger ensembles.
Alongside full texts, there's a thoughtful essay by Tom Janssens, setting the Requiem in the broader context of Dvořák's career. Outstanding in every way, and a great addition to the growing Phi catalogue.
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