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By the time he recorded the Requiem in the glowing acoustic of All Saints’, Tooting, the 28-eight-year-old Barenboim was already a seasoned Mozart conductor. He had completed an acclaimed series of the later symphonies, and was midway through the complete piano concertos, which he directed from the keyboard. All these recordings were with the ECO.
As Richard Wigmore’s informative note goes on to observe, ‘in those days big-band Mozart, à la Karajan and Böhm, was still the norm. Barenboim’s recordings of the symphonies uniquely combined a chamber scale with a subjective flexibility, founded on a deep analytical understanding of harmonic structure, that reflects his oft-expressed reverence for Wilhelm Furtwängler.
This 1971 Mozart Requiem is essentially in the same vein: expansive, pliable, lovingly moulded, ferociously dramatic in movements like the Dies irae and Confutatis, concerned everywhere to stress the music’s proleptic tendencies over its Baroque roots.’
Above all, the professional incisiveness of the 50-strong John Alldis Choir came as a revelation to many. As Alan Blyth put it in Gramophone, the choir, ‘wholly responsive to the extremes of dynamics required of them, is also capable of finely disciplined attack’. He noted, too, the ‘unrepeatably distinguished team of soloists’.
This 1969 New Philharmonia recording of Anton Bruckner’s massive C major Te Deum (originally coupled with Bach’s Magnificat) was Barenboim’s first foray into the music of a composer he would often conduct with distinction, not least in his 1970s symphony series with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.
Again, both works are newly transferred and remastered to ART standard at Abbey Road Studios.
“Nowadays Barenboim's 1971 Mozart might sound as Brucknerian as the Te Deum which keeps it company. But there's a majesty here which compels.”
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