DVORAK: Requiem – Christian Libor, sop/Ewa Wolak, alto/ Daniel Kirch, tenor; Janusz Monarcha, bass/Warsaw Philharmonic Orch. & Choir/ Antoni Wit – Naxos audio-only Blu-ray

DVORAK: Requiem, Op. 89 – Christian Libor, sop/Ewa Wolak, alto/ Daniel Kirch, tenor; Janusz Monarcha, bass/Warsaw Philharmonic Orch. & Choir/ Henryk Wojnarowski, choirmaster/ Antoni Wit, cond. – 96/24 5.0 DTS-HD MA and 96/24 PCM 2.0 Naxos audio-only Blu-ray NBD0046, 1:37:48 (12/9/14) *****:

 

There is only a single multichannel SACD of the Requiem, with Jansons, on RCO Live, and I don’t have it. I didn’t compare this with some of the many standard CD versions (Ancerl’s on Supraphon and Ketesz on Decca are among the leaders), but the soloists and orchestra here are top flight, and clearly any SACD version would require two discs, whereas one does it here. This excellent new performance is supposed to equal the others available. Dvorak’s popularity in Britian was high because of his Stabat Mater, which resulted in a commission for this Requiem, premiered in 1891. While he wrote it, Dvorak was traveling in Russia, Germany and England.

The Requiem’s tone is not overly dramatic as with the Berlioz and Verdi Requiems, but compassionate and reflective. It is a rather long work, in two parts, with the two parts of the “Offertorium” the lengtheist. The “Dies irae” portion is only two minutes, with a less-than-shocking setting – nothing like the Berlioz or Verdi. Complete translations are furnished, and they can also be accessed online. (I’m familiar with the requiem form, having sung in the chorus once for a version of the Berlioz under Dimitri Mitropoulos.) The soloists are excellent and beautifully situated spatially across the soundstage to the front. The 96K/24 sampling sounds just enough for a huge improvement in the resultant sonics. Tho often more expensive than the SACD version, an audio-only Blu-ray seems a perfect medium for such works, especially the lengthier ones.

—John Sunier

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