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Seldom on disc do you get an opportunity to experience Mozart’s valedictory Requiem in the liturgical context for which it was intended. And never, I’d hazard a guess, when the interpolations of the Mass are heard in Polish. So, here’s a first. And possibly a last.

Filmed by the Fryderyk Chopin Institute in Warsaw’s Church of the Holy Cross on 17 October 2010 to mark the 161st anniversary of the composer’s death, it pays tribute with a period-instrument performance, led by Philippe Herreweghe, to the work Chopin is said to have requested for his funeral.

It’s a somewhat curious experience – with the Mass itself celebrated in Polish, the prospect of sitting through the non-musical sections may well prove to be of somewhat limited appeal for many – but one at the heart of which is a glorious, clean-voiced, luminous and urgent but precisely paced and proportioned account of the Requiem.

On a disc with no bonus features, the Requiem can be programmed to be played uninterrupted, but Waldemar Stroinski’s decidedly workmanlike camera direction is largely unengaging, with occasional stuttering tracking shots and a propensity to favour the combined forces of the Collegium Vocale Gent and Accademia Chigliana Siena while all but ignoring sections of the Orchestre des Champs-Élysées apart from its first violinist and, in the Tuba Mirum, its trombonist.

While the church acoustics are crisp and clean, they are not without problems, throwing high voices into sharper focus while tending to dampen and distance lower registers. Which is a pity, given Herreweghe’s beautifully pitched reading of the Requiem that is sung (soprano Christina Landshamer especially heartfelt and effective) and played with obvious sincerity of feeling and expression. With an especially lithe and free-flowing Kyrie, a forceful Dies Irae, hauntingly plaintive Lachrymosa, rousing Domine Jesu, and a finale that is exquisitely moving, it boasts no false or unnecessarily forced dramas.

The booklet contains notes that include a particularly ripe commentary on Chopin and a curious digression into the influence of Bach on Mozart.

MICHAEL QUINN Read the full review on Agora Classica

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