A new interpretation of Mozart's Requiem Mass in D Minor was recorded in the Scottish capital recently using Neumann digital microphones.
Famously unfinished at the composer's death in 1791, the piece was completed the following year by his student Franz Xaver Süssmayr.
Performed by baroque ensemble The Dunedin Consort, under the direction of conductor John Butt, the recording was carried out in Greyfriars Kirk, Edinburgh, and issued on Scottish independent label Linn Records.
“In many ways it was a way of rehabilitating Süssmayr,” said Phillip Hobbs, chief producer at Linn Records. “Ever since Requiem was completed, there has been a huge amount of discussion about whether he did a good job of it and so people have been coming up with new ways of finishing it.
“What John has done is to look at what Süssmayr actually did, the context in which he did it and, in a way, dressed it in new clothes. We think the performance we recorded is very close to the first performance of the completed piece and, ultimately, much closer to what Mozart did.”Article continues below
Linn Records ensures that everything is recorded at 192kHz, which is one of the primary reasons why Neumann microphones have become an essential part of Hobbs' recording inventory. After over 15 years of using M 150s and TLM 50s as his main microphones, this project saw him turn to a pair of K 133Ds and two D-01s.
“I tried the K 133Ds about 18 months ago and was astonished by the reach, clarity and sheer lack of noise,” he revealed. “They are perfect for a building like Greyfriars Kirk, where the reverb tail is about six seconds. Their lack of noise means you can hear precisely when the sound stops and then hear right to the far end of the reverb tail.
“I've also found that the reach and detail of the K 133D is such that you need fewer spot mics. This means you’re not fighting the inherent ‘noise’ of the space to the same degree and you use less tracks for the recording. You are very aware that you have to get them in the right place, but that's a very good discipline. Using the K 133Ds has effectively forced me to come back to a slightly more purist approach, which I think is very much for the better.”
While the K 133Ds handled the orchestral sound, the D-01s were ideal for the vocalists.
“John handles the chorus in a very particular way. He has the soloist and the three other singers forming a sort of block around them. This means you hear the core of the one singer and the sound gets bigger around them, ensuring there's always personality in the chorus, rather than the usual sort of generic, amorphous chorus sound,” explained Hobbs. “It's difficult from a balance point of view, because you end up being closer to things than you would naturally, but the result is much more animation, emotion and detail.”
“The whole project has been fascinating. As well as the re-imagining of the Süssmayr work, we also recorded the first two parts of Requiem a second time, in the style that we believe they were very first performed, at Mozart’s funeral.
“You can either kill the creative element because everybody is so worried about getting Requiem exactly right, or you can interpret it by saying ‘This is what we think he meant,’ taking the work forward and producing a performance as it was, hopefully, supposed to be. I think that's what we've achieved and people have been very excited by it, which speaks for itself.”
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