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Mozart Requiem - Sunday Herald


08 June 2003
Sunday Herald
Christopher Lambton

Those of you who keep half an eye on Scottish technology might be aware of the Glasgow company Linn, a manufacturer of high-quality hi-fi and until recently one of the few companies in Britain still producing vinyl LPs. It still nobly produces a superb turntable for vinyl aesthetes, but its recording division has moved with the times to embrace compact discs and new-generation innovations such as Super Audio CDs.

Recent releases from Linn show a welcome drift away from its 1990s preoccupation with early music -- b ut its recording of the Mozart Requiem with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra demonstrates a continuing interest in the unusual, for this is an edition of the Requiem edited by American musicologist Robert Levin. It is widely known that Mozart never finished his final work, but his widow Constanze needed the cash from the commission and persuaded Mozart's pupil Sussmayr to complete the Requiem in secret. The ploy was successful, and by the time Sussmayr's input had been rumbled his completion had become established as the Mozart Requiem we know today.

Sussmayr had access to extensive sketches in Mozart's hand, but scholars now recognise numerous grammatical and structural errors in his completion and Levin's edition is one of many attempts to reorganise the jigsaw without losing the whole picture. While some editors have simply rejected everything written by Sussmayr as superfluous, Levin is sympathetic to the 200-year-old history of the traditional version, and has tried to retain as much as possible of what we know.

At first glance this is simply the excellent performance you would expect from the SCO under Sir Charles Mackerras. But if you know the normal version it will become apparent by track nine that something unusual is afoot, with a new Amen fugue and a reworked Sanctus among the more obvious changes. Is it better? Almost certainly. But I would argue that the weight of history cannot allow its adoption except as a curiosity. Better a flawed masterpiece than none at all.


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