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Composed in 1975, Schnittke’s 14-movement Requiem was originally conceived as an instrumental work. But the opportunity to write music for a Moscow staging of Schiller’s Don Carlos in a production set in a Catholic church gave Schnittke the pretext to write a complete vocal Requiem, something that was officially disapproved of in Brezhnev’s Soviet Union. This new recording from Polish forces is admirable, with well-disciplined, generally bright-voiced choral singing and a good clutch of soloists. However, occasionally it lacks the last ounce of dramatic tension and sometimes one senses that the choir have only just managed to negotiate some of the trickier passages rather than being entirely on top of them. The Three Sacred Hymns are influenced by the Orthodox tradition and offer a contemplative contrast to the Requiem. At 46 minutes, this CD represents poor value for money.

PHILIP REED Read the full review on Agora Classica

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