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Ghost Canyon

Title - 'Mozart: Requiem' (Vinyl LP)
Artist - W. A. Mozart

For those not in the know, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (27 January 1756 – 5 December 1791), baptised as Johannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Theophilus Mozart, was a prolific and influential composer of the classical era.

Born in Salzburg, Mozart showed prodigious ability from his earliest childhood. Already competent on keyboard and violin, he composed from the age of five and performed before European royalty.

At 17, Mozart was engaged as a musician at the Salzburg court, but grew restless and traveled in search of a better position. While visiting Vienna in 1781, he was dismissed from his Salzburg position.

He chose to stay in the capital, where he achieved fame but little financial security. During his final years in Vienna, he composed many of his best-known symphonies, concertos, and operas, and portions of the Requiem, which was largely unfinished at the time of his early death at the age of 35. The circumstances of his early death have been much mythologized.

He composed more than 600 works, many acknowledged as pinnacles of symphonic, concertante, chamber, operatic, and choral music. He is among the most enduringly popular of classical composers, and his influence is profound on subsequent Western art music. Ludwig van Beethoven composed his own early works in the shadow of Mozart, and Joseph Haydn wrote: "posterity will not see such a talent again in 100 years".

Released this past February 2nd, 2018 on a luxurious vinyl LP, Mozart: Requiem is now playing (again) as I type this review, and I have to say I am loving it (all over again).

Side A:
1. 1. Introitus: Requiem/2. Kyrie
2. 3. Sequentia: Dies irae
3. 3. Sequentia: Tuba mirum
4. 3. Sequentia: Rex tremendae
5. 3. Sequentia: Recordare
6. 3. Sequentia: Confutatis
7. 3. Sequentia: Lacrimosa

Side B:
1. 4. Offertorium: Domine Jesu
2. 4. Offertorium: Hostias
3. 5. Sanctus
4. 6. Benedictus
5. Agnus Dei/Lux aeterna

I note above that I'm loving it all over again on vinyl, as perhaps serendipity accompanies youth more than it does old age, for when I was young I wandered into my university record shop looking for a Mozart Requiem, my first.

I was familiar with Karl Böhm's Die Walküre from Bayreuth and liked it and saw this vinyl set with stickers of awards it had received in Europe and I bought it. Such trust!

Well, it paid off. 50 years later it is still at the top of my Mozart Requiem pile, albeit superseded lately by Christian Thielemans's splendid recording from Munich. What I have loved about Böhm's recording of this masterpiece is his serenity, yes, serenity... Karl Böhm!

He has an unjustified reputation of being quick, heartless and dry in his recordings, stemming by and large from his fleet-footed and invigorating traversal of The Ring cycle at Bayreuth, a famous recording, still one of the top two in my estimation, along with Solti's, and his Tristan und Isolde from the same source.

His Mozart Requiem is rather slower than most and of a deep devotion rarely encountered in this piece. It's the darkest, most solemn and perhaps most moving of them all. The opening is deeply mournful and touching, not simply poignant and lovely, though it is those things as well.

The balance of the performance travels along those lines, never approaching the glibness of Rossini's Stabat Mater, which it often has in other conductor's hands, or the simply pretty and shallow. Mozart was sad when he composed this piece. Somehow I think he sensed his end being near and his usual bonhomie and roistering ways had come to a screeching halt in the face of ... Eternity.

Böhm has the great advantage, as well, with a quartet of the finest soloists possible for that day. Edith Mathis, Julia Hamari, Wielsaw Ochman and Karl Ridderbusch. Other recordings boast fine soloists as well, notably Peter Schreier's on Philips, with Margaret Price, Trudeliese Schmidt, Francisco Araiza and Theo Adam, perhaps the best all round team.

But Böhm's deeply probing yet subtle approach to this work is unique. There is none of Karajan's grand-standing or Bernstein's melodramatics here, both fine recordings (all THREE of Karajan's actually).

The Requiem is one of those pieces that should be represented by multiple recordings in any serious library. This is one of them, now lovingly brought back on vinyl, along with Thielemann and one of Karajan's and probably several others depending upon individual taste. (PM)

LP Purchase Link