Saturday, July 30, 2011

Mozart – Requiem – Karl Böhm

It’s well-founded question why last sacred work, messa pro defunctis gained as high popularity as any of other Mozart’s masses never did. What is exceptional in this work, that makes it outdistanced hundreds of great works of this kind. Listening to many other requiem messes composed during span of four centuries from renaissance to classical era it is easy to notice music tries to bring relief and in many cases even express the joy of taking part in eternal life. Even in two centuries after Mozart death there were relatively small number of requiems expressing negative emotions but probably none of so intense tragic effect. No wonder. The faithful Christian interpretation of mess for the dead leads to the conviction of the inevitability of God's will as well as his mercy. This is why, early requiems, especially composed in baroque era by Biber, Lotti, Praetorius, Zelenka or even Fux but also twentieth century settings of mass for the dead e.g. Duruflé and Fauré have this cheerful nature, Mozart’s work uses only as contrasting level for main idea of the cycle. 
In this context the question of Mozart’s faith is inevitable but still many writers take it as fundamentalist assumption of his Catholicism. Just like he never refuse to obey the archbishop of Salzburg Count Hieronymus von Coloredo. Or like Mozart was not engaged in freemasonry. There are even some symbolic connections between Masonic music and Requiem. The Introitus opens with mysterious phases of fagotti and corni di bassetto accompanied by strings and basso continuo. This setting was often used for illustration of the secret or mystery. The problem of composer’s religious views is not easy to solve because too many authors do not distinguish between the quest for truth and their private religious feelings. Artists are in quite different situation. They have full rights to express personal beliefs.

Mozart – Requiem – Karl Böhm (1971)

Among many great recordings of Mozart’s Requiem the legend for decades was the one Karl Böhm recorded with Vienna Philharmonic for the Deutsche Grammophon in 1971. The orchestra and Vienna State Opera Concert Choir were the same as in five years earlier recording by István Kertész for Decca Records but effect obtained by Böhm is quite oposite. He resolved the dilemma of dramatic tension in Mozart’s Requiem and apparent fear of death by balancing elements of horror with cantilena parts, especially for solo voices. He has great group of soloists. Bright soprano of Edith Mathis, dark but open alto of Julia Hamari, lyric tenor of Wiesław Ochman and dramatic bass of Karl Ridderbusch – the whole quartet sounds rich and transparent especially in Tuba mirum where every personality is quite readable and moving and in quartet they sound just phenomenal. Vocal parts are the greatest reward and consolation for the Christian existentialism of this interpretation. Böhm’s rendition of Requiem is extremely traditional, with very slow tempi strengthening the solemn character of the key parts of the work. Just like he was trying like to express, we have no other choice than to surrender and believe in God’s providence and in principles.

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