Mozart’s Requiem, unfinished at the time of his death in 1791, swiftly entered legend as the work of a genius aware that his time had come. John Butt’s taut, intense reading of the Requiem cuts through thick layers of Romantic sentimentality to reveal a piece strong on genuine compassion, packed with vivid contrasts and sharp anguish. He returns to the much-maligned version completed by Mozart’s pupil Franz Xaver Süssmayr, presenting it as it might have sounded at its first performance in Vienna in January 1793. Butt’s band may be lean but it’s certainly not mean in tonal range or cutting power; likewise, his 16-strong chorus and its step-out soloists project with striking force. Linn’s up-close recording balance captures the dramatic focus and fiery energy generated by the Dunedin Consort.
Does the Requiem need another recording? The ‘as it might have been performed’ stamp carries some weight, but not enough to provide a positive answer. This recording is ultimately justified by the close engagement of its performers with the music. Their commitment and conviction are irresistible, even in places where Butt’s interpretation feels too driven or ‘operatic’. This really sounds like a Requiem, a work touched by death’s sting, unsettling and all too human.