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Berlioz: Requiem Op. 5 "Grande messe des morts" / Davis, Dowd, London SO & Chorus, et al

Album Summary

>Berlioz, Hector : Requiem, Op. 5 (Grande Messe des Morts)
Performer Conductor Ensemble Composer

Notes & Reviews:

Gramophone Magazine
A third outing for a recording that's still peerless after almost 40 years.

BBC Music Magazine
Colin Davis's... idiomatic, detailed shaping of this enormous score makes most other seem glib... this version also receives the benefit of SACD clarity and surround-sound... The result is a revelation.

Penguin Guide
Outshines all other versions in amplitude and spectacle. The large-scale brass and drum climaxes are quite astonishing and the choral fortissimos glorious.


Less is More?
Sir Colin Davis' 1969 recording of Berlioz's Requiem (or Grande Messe des Morts) is one of those classic performances that will no doubt retain its value and interest, no matter what competition may come along in the future. The conducting, and the orchestral and (especially) the crucial choral work, are on the highest possible level. Davis, in fact, realizes some details in the score with a conviction that few other conductors have equalled, let alone surpassed. To cite only one example: when all those pairs of differently tuned timpani kick in during the "Tuba mirum," we really do hear not just an ominous generalized rumble, but cleanly pitched and balanced chords. Tenor soloist Ronald Dowd has a slightly grainy but by no means unattractive voice, and brings an appropriate fervor to his lines in the "Sanctus." This reissue, of course, allows the performance to be heard in four-channel playback, with the proper equipment. The directional effects are subtle, enhancing the listening experience instead of diverting attention away from the music. Dowd's voice is more flatteringly reproduced than it was on a previous CD incarnation of this recording.But--! That earlier CD issue, Philips 416 283-2 (in two-channel sound only), included not only the Requiem, but Davis' equally distinguished 1969 recording of the Symphonie funebre et triomphale, Op. 15 (also with the LSO, joined by the John Alldis Choir and trombone soloist Denis Wick). Sung texts and translations were included. This Pentatone release offers the Requiem only, with a total of 91 minutes of music divided between the two discs; and, shamefully, the leaflet includes neither text nor translation. The Pentatone, of course, costs several dollars more than the Philips. So we must now pay more for twice as many channels, but less music and a downgraded presentation! Still, if you want the Requiem in a hybrid multichannel SACD format, then this release's only real competition is Roger Norrington's 2003 recording on the Hanssler Classic label--a live recording, with the Radio-Sinfonieorechester Stuttgart des SWR, the SWR Vokalensemble Stuttgart, the MDR Rundfunkchor Lepizig, and tenor soloist Toby Spence (who is first-rate). Norrington comes close to duplicating most of Davis' virtues (including the abovementioned timpani chords!), and the engineering is even more vivid. Norrington's Requiem is the one to audition if you want to hear what your four-channel setup can really do. (For the record, Hanssler Classic provides the Latin text of the mass, but no English translation of it.)
Submitted on 07/08/09 by Roland Graeme 
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Works Details

>Berlioz, Hector : Requiem, Op. 5 (Grande Messe des Morts)
  • Performer: Ronald Dowd (Tenor)
  • Conductor: Colin Davis
  • Ensemble: Wandsworth School Boys Choir
  • Running Time: 89 min. 13 sec.
  • Period Time: Romantic
  • Form: Choral
  • Written: 06/1837