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MOZART: Requiem in D minor (Tassinari, Tagliavini, De Sabata) (1941)

Composer(s):Mozart, Wolfgang Amadeus
Period(s) Classical (1750-1830)
Genre Classical Music
Category Choral - Sacred
Catalogue 8.111064
Label Naxos Historical
Quality   320kbps
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Recorded over two days in the grand surroundings of the Basilica di Santa Maria degli Angeli, Rome in 1941, this performance of the Requiem was part of Italian Radio’s Commemorative Ceremony for the 150th Anniversary of the death of Mozart. It features not only some of the finest Italian singers of the day but the combined Italian Radio orchestras and choirs from Rome and Turin, under the inspired baton of Victor De Sabata. An immediate hit both in Italy and abroad, this recording of the Requiem documents both a unique occasion in the history of Italian Radio and a very Italian, intensely sensual and tragic interpretation.

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Review By Jerome F. Weber,Classic Record Collector,June 2007

When this performance and recording commemorated the sesquicentenary of Mozart's death, there had been only three recordings, the Joseph Messner of 1930 on Christschall (now Orfeo C396 951 B), the Harl McDonald on RCA Victor and HMV (once on Camden CAL276), and the Bruno Kittel on Deutsche Grammophon (now <D 459004-2). HMV captured Bruno Walter's interpretation in Paris but it was rejected by him and issued only much later (Orfeo 7 63912-2.) As with the Kittel, wider circulation of the De Sabata was delayed by wartime conditions. It was issued on Deutsche Grammophon and on HMV in Britain after the war, and it was the first Cetra­Soria LP in America in June 1949 (Camden 1001). I believe it has been continuously available ever since. The original Cetra album was unusually

It was noted in CRC, Winter 2000, that the Heliodor LP is different to the Cetra recording, but no one seems to have compared it with the earlier issue (DG 68422/9). That set, which can be found at the Berlin Musikarchiv, has the same soloists but Grammophon's own series of matrix numbers from 1716GS to 1 731 GS were assigned (three of the sides have take 4/4), but not in sequential order as the Cetra numbers were. (I thank Dieter Lerch for this valuable clarification.) The Cetra matrix numbers were 2-70664 to 2-70668, with take II added to eight of the 16 side numbers. Comparing the Grammophon shellacs with the Heliodor LP should establish that the reported differences noted in Mr Bernard d'Abrera's letter are explained by alternate takes made during the same sessions.

This basilica, a large church in the shape of a Greek cross built on the site of the baths of Diocletian, has been used frequently for concerts, though its shape makes it appear to be an unlikely place for that purpose. The acoustics are resonant (but not as 'unfortunate' as the notes here suggest), and the huge forces produce some powerful climaxes. Some movements end with a huge ritard, yet the tempos are not as broad as might be expected, the timing closely matching most of the traditional performances dating back more than a few years. In the notes, G. Paolo Zeccara speculates without foundation that the choruses were recorded first, then the solos. The matrix numbers indicate that the work was recorded straight through, with half of the 16 sides requiring a take 2.

While Cetra's CD reissue was an abysmal transfer that showed how badly the Cedar process can be handled, this one is not as good as expected – I have not heard the issue recommended by Kenneth Morgan in ICRC, Summer 2000 (Musica Classica MC2019/20.) At worst, 'Confutatis' and 'Lacrymosa' sound as if the pressing was off­centre or someone was dragging irregularly on the turntable. Overall, timing both discs carefully and omitting the variable gaps between sides, the Naxos plays 1:28 slower than the Cetra CD, but the two movements cited betray the greatest differences, 5 to 6 per cent slower. Listening through the obstacles, the performance still impresses as a powerful interpretation of its time. It always was a landmark. I would like to hear what the finest source materials might yield in another transfer.


Review By Richard Gate,Limelight Magazine,February 2007

The recording is excellent, considering its age, and Ward Marston has done an admirable job of transferring it to CD. …Victor de Sabata was a great conductor and his performance has power, sensitivity and clarity and is beautifully executed. The Italian soloists adapt their style to Mozartian requirements, and the chorus is particularly effective. The excellent acoustics of the basilica add greatly to the ambiance.

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