Mozart’s death mass is a strong survivor – fortunately

Copenhagen Soloists managed to demonstrate punch in Mozart’s Requiem.

Rachel Einarsson (Jyllandsposten, 4 November, 2019)

4 stars

Maximum three reviewer-stars for the clarinet concerto and five stars for the death mass gives on average about four stars. But should the clarinet concerto be allowed to pull down the overall assessment at the cost of the death mass?

We land on four stars. The fact that Copenhagen Soloists has specialized in baroque performed on period instruments, is naturally a welcome entry within the musical scene. But to give Mozart’s intimate and elegant clarinet concerto an almost weak and baroque sense is alas strongly disappointing. We cannot know precisely how Mozart’s music originally sounded, for good reason. But to play such a strong classical work without vibrato and substantial cadences is like serving a cup of lukewarm chocolate milk with stiff whip-cream.

As a soloist we experienced Nicola Boud, who did good with her intriguing basset-clarinet. The slim and more light tone radiated fine, although she perhaps tripped a bit in a few passages. Especially the third movement was fine, where the uplifting and recurring theme bloomed beautifully. The orchestra was first waking up here, and that was too late.

Generally, the orchestra’s presentation appeared as an unconscious routine. It lacked nerve, involvement and intimacy, which had perhaps hung together with the tempo, which was generally too fast and superficial, unfortunately. That there was more intensity and dynamic in the death mass, is apparently due to the engagement of the ensemble singers, which infected the players. The strong mass, which hits a deeper profundity in the human existence than for example the current climate-struggle, glowed in strong, dark colors. The fact that the work was performed by a smaller ensemble, brought music and lyrics much closer to the audience, just as the program notes with the translation of the text strengthened the impression.

Outspoken intimacy

Generally, the intimacy, introspection and appeal were outspoken in Mozart’s Requiem. All 12 singers, which also included the soloists, demonstrated great quality, and the extreme points of the terrifying and the introvert were managed masterfully. “Dies Irae” – the movement about the Day of Wrath – received its deserved fullness and tremulous seriousness, while the soft and affectionate “Lacrymosa” – the movement about the day of weeping – received a luxurious dolce.

The work’s strong reflections concerning the human’s serious situation as well as respect for God’s power over the dead are overwhelming. That Mozart was able to merge lyrics and tones together so well – as far as he managed to do so himself in this work – has qualified the Requiem as a strong survivor in the musical library. That should be valued. Copenhagen Soloists delivered the goods, and we can therefore not land on less than four stars.

Copenhagen Soloists
Nicola Boud, clarinet
Jonathan Ofir, conductor