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Penguin Guide, January 2009

The spectacular setting of Regensburg Cathedral adds greatly to the impact of Sir Colin Davis’s inspired performance of the Berlioz Requiem. The nave is exceptionally high and relatively narrow, and that works surprisingly well, both for the sound, which focuses far better than in many other reverberant cathedrals, and visually too. With orchestra and chorus set at the far end, like an elaborate altar-piece, there is less spread of sound than in a broader church or concert hall, but the clarity of detail is remarkable, no doubt a tribute to the engineers as well. Davis as ever gives a dedicated performance, rising brilliantly to the relatively few moments of Berliozian drama, as in the Tuba mirum, with its array of brass and timpani, but bringing out the fundamentally devotional quality of the work. That stamp dedication is sealed when, at the very end of the final Agnus Dei, Davis remains standing impassively, and one hears the distant boom of the bells from outside. Chorus and orchestra are superb, at once warm and incisive, responding to Davis’s every gesture, as he leads them through a work they are unlikely to know well. Unison passages for whichever section emerge with exceptional purity. In the Sanctus Keith Lewis, at his peak, gives an ideal performance as soloist, totally unstrained. The DVD gives one the option of having the Latin text on the screen as though on a gauze over the main picture.

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