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Beethoven called Mozart's Requiem "wild and terrible", and that's what we get in Harnoncourt's new recording. Ominous dread hangs from every note of the dark opening measures, the Rex tremendae and Confutatis are driven with terrifying strength, and the supplications of the Lacrimosa, with their weeping stabbings of the orchestra, are freighted with emotional power. The Tuba mirum duet of bass soloist and trombone has a beauty almost never achieved in other readings. Nor does Harnoncourt overstep the stylistic boundaries of this classical-era work; rather, the intensity is heightened for being in the idiom of its time.
A new critical foreword by Walter Frisch, H. Harold Gumm/Harry and Albert von Tilzer Professor of Music at Columbia University, expands this centennial edition. Frisch puts Schoenberg's masterpiece into historical and ideological context, delineating the connections between music, theory, art, science, and architecture in turn-of-the century Austro-German culture.