Thursday, August 7, 2014

Oh my God they killed Mozart! (or something)

Good evening and welcome to a special Heavyweight Death Match edition of Did You Even Listen To The Same CD?! Our lucky/unlucky album this time round is John Butt and the Dunedin Consort's new recording of Mozart's Requiem, released by Linn earlier this year. And folks do we have a battle royale tonight! In the blue corner we have Fanfare's Jerry Dubins, and in the red corner it's Fanfare's Lynn René Bayley. Oh yes indeed. They've been here before: you know what they can do. No holds barred. Hide under your seats for this one.

Dubins: "Happily, I can report that this new Mozart Requiem is both terrifying and terrific. The performance is distinguished by exceptionally well-defined, crisp, and transparent articulation in both the orchestral playing and the choral singing, with the result being clarity of textures and diction seldom heard even in other slimmed-down period instrument performances. The effect is further enhanced by a recording of atmospheric openness and luminous lucidity."

Bayley: "I will give conductor Butt this much credit: In the dramatic passages, he does kick some energy into his orchestra, but as soon as you reach any sustained passage the strings and winds sound like a MIDI, likewise the chorus. In the Recordare, the singers approach their task as if they were warbling madrigals."

Dubins: "Butt achieves his results with four excellent vocal soloists..."

Bayley: "I defy anyone to put this recording on and tell me that any of the four singers heard here “move” you. Perhaps contralto Rowan Hellier, who is the only singer here with an inadvertently tremulous flutter in the voice? Well, perhaps, if you are “moved” by tremulous flutters. From the standpoint of expression, her singing is as neuter sounding as that of soprano Lunn (who sounds like a young girl), tenor Hobbs (who sounds like a pre-pubescent teen), and bass Brook (who has a “nice” voice, but no more than that)."

Dubins: "I will now state unconditionally that this is the Mozart Requiem to have, and I won’t even qualify it by saying “among period instrument versions.” It simply goes to the very top of the list of any performance of the work I’ve heard. Urgently recommended."

Bayley: "If you need a drink coaster, this one will do the job."