As one would expect, Robert Shaw’s rendition of the Requiem is magnificently polished, with choral singing that is beyond compare. The drama is not quite as pronounced as with Davis and Munch, but the work’s majestic architecture stands clearly revealed. For once, Telarc’s thunderous, bass-heavy pickup adds something to the sonic picture. –Ted Libbey
Any one not familiar with Berlioz’ “Te Deum” should also give this careful consideration. I personally prefer the Te Deum over the Requiem and wonder why the two works are not equally known. This Shaw, although very very good, is (IHMO) slightly under the level of Davis, to call one, but technically is it one of the best (maybe THE best) among all releases of this underestimated masterwork. Friends of HiFi and owners of a very good equipment will find this absolutely amazing. Anyone who catches onto this neglected masterpiece should also investigate the Inbal (on Denon) and the Davis (on Philips).
Composer: Hector Berlioz
Performer: Atlanta Symphony Chorus, John Alder
Orchestra: Atlanta Symphony Orchestra
Conductor: Robert Shaw
Number of discs: 2
DR-Analysis: DR 14
Size: 3.17 GB
Berlioz’s Requiem is, with Giuseppe Verdi’s “Manzoni” Requiem, one of the two great dramatic renderings of this text; works that have stood the test of time. If the Verdi work is the more frequently performed and operatic Requiem, the Berlioz is the more “forward-looking” and not at all lacking in its own drama and grandeur.
One needs to go “back into the vaults” to find a recorded performance of this essential Berlioz work that matches Robert Shaw’s stunning version in its balance of sublime beauty and visceral excitement, not to mention its spacious sonics, all the way back to the much earlier performances by Charles Munch and Sir Thomas Beecham in fact. And then, of course, one pays a fairly heavy penalty in terms of sonics.
Despite the resources required, the work hardly lacks for “decent” recordings that are more modern than the Beecham and Munch ones, by such esteemed Berlioz specialists as Sir Colin Davis and Charles Dutoit, as well as by James Levine, Lorin Maazel, Seiji Ozawa and Sir Andre Previn. But “decent” is just not good enough; some of these fail to catch fire in one way or another, and none of them have the choral excellence of this Shaw recording under consideration. Only the Dutoit (in an otherwise curiously unengaging performance) can come close to matching Shaw in terms of recorded sound. (In fairness, I confess to not yet having heard John Eliot Gardiner’s recording. It may, in its HIP [historically informed performance] way, be the equal of this Shaw recording.)
Shaw finds the appropriate dynamic contrasts in the work, from the gentlest supplications of the “Sanctus” and “Agnus Dei” to the most violent outbursts of the “Dies irae” and “Rex tremendae.” The sound – and the perception of depth and spatial effects – is of demonstration quality, particularly in the “Tuba mirum” section of the “Dies irae,” for which four brass bands are disposed at the extreme corners of the recording venue at Atlanta Symphony Hall.
The blazing originality of Berlioz shines through everywhere, not just in the instrumental (and choral) outbursts. The otherworldly effect in the “Hostias” of having flutes and trombones separated by many octaves, to represent the immensity of the distance from Heaven to Hell, is captured perfectly, right down to the trombones’ pedal-tone growl (just one of many Berlioz innovations). John Aler, arguably our very best “American French tenor,” is splendid in the “Sanctus,” and the Shaw chorus, needless to say, is one that is seldom – if ever – topped.
John Aler can also be found on a Delos recording of another Berlioz work in a similar vein, the Te Deum (conducted by Dennis Keene). Regrettably, Robert Shaw never committed the Berlioz Te Deum to disc; it would have made a perfect filler. (This might be because of the special antiphonal “call and response” requirements between orchestra and organ that Berlioz takes pains to specify. Aler/Keene had the benefit of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine for their recording, a perfect venue for the work.)
|A1||Requiem – Kyrie (Introitus)||11:15|
|A2||Dies Irae – Tuba Mirum (Prosa)||12:13|
|B1||Quid Sum Miser||2:42|
|C1||Domine Jesu Christie||8:34|
Analyzed folder: /192k Berlioz – Requiem – Shaw
DR Peak RMS Filename
DR14 -7.99 dB -27.73 dB A1 Requiem – Kyrie (Introitus).aif
DR14 -0.56 dB -20.73 dB A2 Dies Irae – Tuba Mirum (Prosa).aif
DR13 -17.83 dB -36.20 dB B1 Quid Sum Miser.aif
DR14 -0.74 dB -20.20 dB B2 Rex Tremendae.aif
DR13 -14.72 dB -33.99 dB B3 Quaerens Me.aif
DR14 -2.29 dB -20.49 dB B4 Lacrymosa.aif
DR13 -5.81 dB -25.11 dB C1 Domine Jesu Christie.aif
DR13 -10.06 dB -27.67 dB C2 Hostias.aif
DR15 -0.54 dB -21.17 dB C3 Sanctus.aif
DR16 -1.89 dB -24.55 dB D Agnus Dei.aif
Number of files: 10
Official DR value: DR14
- RCM: Okki Nokki (L’art du son, Clearaudio’s Diamond Cleaner)
- TT: Vintage (1982) Yamaha PX-3
Cartridge: Sumiko Black Bird
- Cartridge: ZYX 50R Bloom
- Phono amp: Audio Research SP15 own tube phono section
- ADC/DAC: RME Fireface UC
- Pre Amp: Audio Research SP15
- Finals: Opera Consonance 9.9 Mono (Tube)
- Speakers: Dali Helikon 400
- Connections: MIT Terminator, Audioquest Emerald, Audioquest Quartz
- Software: iZotope RX 4 Advanced, Adobe Audition CS 5.5, Twisted Wave 1.9
- Super light de-clicking with iZotope, significant clicks manually removing, no de-noising
- DR-Analisys before converting to Flac
- Converting Wave -> Flac: Twisted Wave 1.9
- Artwork: Sony Alpha 350, Epson Perfection V750 Pro, Photoshop CS 5.5
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