Cherubini: Requiem in C minor - Boston Baroque
Classical - Vocal
Cherubini: Requiem in C minor, March funèbre, Beethoven: Elegiac Song (Elegischer Gesang) Op. 118
Martin Pearlman (conductor)
Recorded May 7-8, 2006 in Mechanics Hall, Worcester, Massachusetts, United States
Microphones: AEA R-88, R-84; Royer SF-24; Sennheiser MKH-800 on-stage microphones pre-amplifiers; AEA Ribson Mic pre-amplifier; Upstate Audio Sonic Lens 20/20; Millennia Media HV-3D
Console: Studer 961 and 962
Interconnecting cables: Music interface technologies proline with balanced terminators monster cable series Pro-1000
Digital recording system: Sonoma Direct Stream Digital (DSD) with EMM Labs ADC (Analogue Digital Converter) and DAC (Digital Analogue Converter) custom engineering by ED Meitner; Genex 8500 DSD recorder
Monitored through EMM Labs Switchman MK2
Monitor speakers: ATC SCM-150, SCM-20 control room and on-stage acoustic treatment; Sonex by Illbruck/USA
Digital editor: Sonoma DSD
Special thanks to: Gus Skinas (Super Audio Center, LLC), Wes Dooley and Paul Pegas (AEA), Matt Kesko (Upstate Audio, Inc.), Dawn Burr and Chris Phillips (Sennheiser/Neumann USA), John Jennings (Royer Labs)
Recording producer: Thomas C. Moore
Recording engineer: Robert Friedrich
Editor: Thomas C. Moore
Engineering assistant: Bill McKinney
SACD production supervisor: Erica Brenner
Review by John Miller - December 2, 2013
Luigi Cherubini's star has long been eclipsed. But in his time, this Italian composer, who spent most of his professional life serving the French Court, was regarded as one of Europe's greatest composers. Elective Parisians such as Chopin and Rossini delighted in visiting him, and Cherubini was a close friend of the great French artist Jean August Dominique Ingres, whose beautiful portrait of him hangs in the Louvre.
Sadly, the truth of Cherubini's well-deserved fame was deeply tarnished by an avidly burlesque cameo of his penchant for politics, rules and regulations. The author was his one-time pupil of the maestro in the Paris Conservertoire, Hector Berlioz, and the publication was Berlioz's Memoires. Later, however, Berlioz came to acknowledge Cherubini as a very powerful composer, and the obituary the Berlioz wrote for the old master was generous. The paragraph on the C Minor Requiem was effusive, full of phrases like "wealth of ideas, grandeur of form and nobility of style", "truth of expression" and "immeasurable worth". Beethoven too revered Cherubini as the greatest composer amongst his contemporaries, declaring that he was more satisfied with Cherubini's Requiem than Mozart's (it was the C minor Requiem which was sung at a memorial service for Beethoven ten days after his death in Vienna's St Charles Church).
Mendelssohn, another enthusiast for the Requiem, praised Cherubini for "sparkling fire, clever and unexpected transitions and the nearness and grace with which he writes", Schumann declared that the C Minor Requiem "stands without an equal in the world", and Bruckner copied out movements from Cherubini's masses for study. Brahms kept likenesses of only three composers in his study; a picture of Bach, a bust of Beethoven and a copy of the Ingres portrait of Cherubini. Verdi admitted that he had been influenced by Cherubini's C minor Requiem while composing his own grandly operatic Requiem.
And it is Cherubini's craft for writing operas which shapes the content and structure of this Requiem, prepared for its first performance in the crypt of the Church of St Denis, where most of the Kings of France were buried, as a commemoration of the deaths of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette by guillotine during the Revolution. The texts of the Requiem Mass are less clearly defined than those of the Ordinary of the Mass, so Cherubini was able to select texts which appealed to him as drama and organise them to form a framework of solemnity and classical austerity (for example, he concatenates the Introit and Kyrie, following this with an extract from Psalm 112). Sanctus and Pie Jesu are similarly joined into one movement. The vivid Sequence describing the end of the world and Final Judgement (Dies irae) has a number of dramatic, almost staged, orchestral and choral sections, startlingly and shockingly at the start of the Dies irae, with brazen brass fanfares interrupted by a tremendous crash of the tamtam, a unique feature in its day. The orchestration is carefully and aptly thought out, following tradition by omission of flutes. In two movements, there are no violins but divided violas and cellos. At times, the timpani are muted by cloths, at others the use of hard sticks gives prominent rhythmic figures.There are also no soloists, and a mixed-voice chorus. This latter feature brought him trouble with the Parisian clerics, for women were still banned from singing in Catholicism, and he redeemed himself in his D Minor Requiem by having a male chorus only.
As a whole, the Requiem is defined by the clarity of its writing, relative brevity and evident sincerity. Perlman, basing his tempi around Cherubini's marks from an early metronome. Both orchestra and choral performances are exemplary in their classical style, the Boston Baroque players using period instruments, which add extra colour to the work. Much of the singing and playing is soft, and the difference between pianissimo and piano is clear, the choir keeping full tone even at their quietest. Cherubini's wonderful long decrescendo at the end of the Agnus Dei is given a radiant and beautifully poised performance - this effect certainly being copied and developed by Berlioz.
The album begins with a rare piece by Beethoven, from his latter years. His Elegiac Song Op. 118 was composed in 1814 for his friend, supporter and former landlord, Baron Johannes Pasqualati in memory of his wife's death. Originally set for four solo voices with string quartet, Perlman performs it here with a small choir and the strings without double bass. Just under 6 minutes in length, this gently modulated piece is searching, soothing and underlined by unusual harmonic progressions, quite a hidden gem.
Cherubini's rousing Funeral March of 1820 was another piece of occasional music, this time for a service in the Royal Chapel. The tamtam is used again, but with many more contributions than the single one of the D minor Requiem. There are some piquant dissonances and a number of theatrical effects brought out by skilled orchestration, and given their full power under Boston Baroque. The march provides an exciting and unusual finale for a very fine programme.
Telarc's full DSD engineering in the nicely ambient but not reverberant space of the Mechanics Hall, Worcester, Massachusets is typical of the finely-detailed and transparent Telarc engineering prowess - the spectacular capture of the gong-like tamtam, of course, being treated most carefully. All the texts have English translations.
There is one SA-CD competitor for this disc at the time of writing, Cherubini: Requiem in C minor - Bernius. The Carus performance is also excellent, also on period instruments. This version, however, has some interpolations of plainchant, presumably in order to give some impression of a liturgical performance. Telarc's disc, however, has two very interesting and appropriate pieces to make a very satisfying programme. The choice is yours.
Copyright © 2013 John Miller and HRAudio.net