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In July 1791 Mozart received an anonymous commission to write a requiem mass. Though he had contacted Mozart through an intermediary, the Austrian Count Franz von Walsegg wished the requiem to be a monument to the memory of his late wife, Anna. The same month Mozart had received another commission to compose the opera La clemenza di Tito for Holy Roman Emperor Leopold II’s coronation as King of Bohemia in Prague.

A few weeks before Mozart received these two major commissions, Leopold II’s aunt, the Queen of France Marie Antoinette, had tried unsuccessfully to escape from house arrest in revolutionary Paris with the rest of the French royal family. Before the French Revolution, her opulently luxurious residence was at the Palace of Versailles, where she would have frequently attended mass at the Chapelle Royale. In February 2014, that very same Chapelle was the venue for Laurence Equilbey and the Insula Orchestra’s recent recording of the Mozart Requiem.

Equilbey’s tempi have an un-indulgent discipline that maintains the velocity of the faster movements to exciting effect. The chamber choir Accentus should be better known outside France: their sound is vibrant and fresh. This recording’s team of soloists is very well balanced, underpinned ably by Christopher Purves’ velvety bass-baritone.

Nicholas Bown Read the full review on Agora Classica

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