MOZART Requiem. Ave verum corpus. Miserere
Here is an unexpected addition to the massive and ever-expanding Mozart Requiem discography: a performance of the work from the Salzburg Felsenreitschule choreographed for dancing horses. I must admit that I know virtually nothing about horses – as my betting history bears testament – but the beasts of the Académie équestre nationale du domaine de Versailles are undeniably beautiful, and if the combination of sacred masterpieces and dressage is just what you’ve always wanted, you will be enraptured. For myself, I struggled to match what I was seeing with the words and music, and fear that those less well disposed will find it all faintly absurd.
The concert opens with an early Miserere, alternating plainchant with old-style polyphony, and a single black horse spinning around on the spot, its rider making odd arm gestures. Then comes an interlude for the opening Symphony from Handel’s Funeral Anthem, before the Requiem, danced by a troupe of white horses wearing black masks, some ridden by characters in Klan-style pointed headgear. In the later stages, the riders are replaced by winged skeletons, on which one can make no further comment. The whole closes with the Ave verum, before rapturous applause and repeated calls for the corps and cast.
The Miserere bodes ill, with ragged polyphony and fluffed entries, but the Requiem is well done. The documentation doesn’t let on but we hear the 1989 completion by HC Robbins Landon, in which the aborted completion of Eybler is perferred (where it exists) to the traditional Süssmayr version. This being Marc Minkowski, it is a more than decent performance, with some starry soloists and finely honed orchestral playing.
The choreographer is Bartabas, one of the world’s leading trainers of horses for spectacles such as this. It is well filmed, with Les Musiciens and the singers framed by the arches of the Felsenreitschule stage’s backdrop. And the horses are exquisite. One for equestrians and the curious.