Soloists - Krassimira Stoyanova, Marina Prudenskaja, Jonas Kaufmann, Stephen Milling; Chor des Bayerischen Rundfunks
I'm sure Mariss Jansons wouldn't agree that practice makes perfect. Always in search of further refinements to his interpretations, he continues to study even the most familiar works, confident of gaining fresh insight each time he does so. Nevertheless, three performances in Berlin a couple of weeks ago, plus another one here in Salzburg earlier in the week, not to mention his long history with the work must all add something to the technical quality of the performance, which was almost inevitably unimpeachable.
And yet he still managed to add something new. It's often trotted out that there are two ways to tackle the Requiem, operatic or ecclesiastical. But Jansons has uncovered a third, the symphonic, where all the disparate 'numbers' are integrated into the whole in a way I've never heard before. A seamless narrative unfolded, punctured only by bold silences, held to the limit. Within this overarching structure, Jansons explored every dramatic extreme, from the fire-and-brimstone Dies Irae to the tender vocal pianissimos. However sudden the shifts, they always seemed musical and inevitable, never just vulgar attention-seeking effects.
Jonas Kaufmann sounded perhaps the best I've ever heard him, his dynamics perfectly calibrated and every word weighted with meaning. Just two words - a thrilling kyrie eleison - and he had me. The rest of the soloists came close to matching him. Stephen Milling wobbled a little in his first few bars, but soon settled into a steady and rounded performance. The Requiem ideally needs a rich, creamy mezzo, and Marina Prudenskaja (who impressed me as Octavian in Stuttgart recently) was more skimmed soy, but she sang with tremendous expression attention to text. Krassimira Stoyanova began well, with rich, radiant tone, but flagged towards the end, falling behind the beat here and there and not always intoning correctly.
Still, it was an enthralling and tremendously powerful performance, fully deserving of the unanimous standing ovation it received.
***** photos and more overleaf *****