Mozart’s Requiem for sold-out churches

Peter Dürrfeld (Kristeligt Dagblad, 7 November, 2017)

Copenhagen Soloists has by now existed for 11 years. It is a soloistic vocal and instrumental ensemble, which portrays a considerable level of ambition in performing some of the biggest baroque works – next month they thus perform J.S. Bach’s Mass in B Minor – and they have recently expanded repertoire to the classical period.

In the first weekend of November they thus presented a couple of performances of Mozart’s unfinished and immortal Requiem, the last number in the 626 works under the so-called Köchel-catalogue covering the genius’ works.

And there was so much demand for tickets to both Sct. Paul’s church in Århus and Helligåndskirken in Copenhagen, that an extra concert was added Sunday evening. The latter was also performed for a completely sold-out church.

It is uplifting to experience – as one could four days earlier at the same place with Brahms and Copenhagen Kantatekor – that the interest for spiritual music at this high level is so strong.

In the usual version, which one chose for the performance of the myth-bound Requiem, the duration is less than an hour, but despite the compact duration it is profound and thrilling enough to constitute a full concert. “A work concerning mystery and death” is the title which the choir’s founder and director, the 45-year old local resident Israeli Jonathan Ofir, chose to call it in his program notes article, and the incredibly dedicated conductor got his somewhat illness-stricken team of singers and musicians to perform it with the required passion and – overall – with the just as required precision.

It is apparently an artistic principle of the ensemble, that the vocal solos are circulated: Members of the choir perform in turn the various soprano, alto, tenor and bass solos which the score includes. This can obviously create a certain diversity in tone and interpretation, so one comes to compare the singers and possibly miss the former soloist.

Likewise, one retains the concept of playing on “period instruments”, which sound as in the composer’s time (as far as one may ascertain). This may cause certain passages to sound a bit raw, but this was not the full explanation for there having been some lack of clarity in the first violins for the first concert at Helligåndskirken.

But overall, the chamber-music inclined orchestra and choir tackled the challenge up to three big stars.

About the work
Mozart’s Requiem, KV 626, with Copenhagen Soloists and Jonathan Ofir in Århus and Copenhagen.