Brahms: Ein Deutsches Requiem
This Deutsches Requiem comes packaged, a little incongruously, as a ‘Hommage à Chopin’; a snatch of the E minor Prelude from Chopin’s Op. 28 introduces it, and the performance, given in August 2011 in the Baroque splendour of Warsaw’s Holy Cross Church (one of whose pillars contains Chopin’s heart), was part of the festival ‘Chopin and His Europe’. (It’s open to question whether Chopin would have recognised Brahms’s work, first performed 20 years after his death, as part of his Europe.) Performers apart, it’s a very Polish production, sung in German of course but with Polish subtitles.
The visual impression of grandeur mixed with intimacy is entirely appropriate for the music. The singers of Collegium Vocale Gent seem shoehorned rather uncomfortably into the nave before the altar, the orchestra spread out in front of them stretching into both wings of the transepts. Philippe Herreweghe conducts with an almost priestly mien at times, though his tempos are generally a bit on the fast side. Beautifully played and sung, but at first a mite emotionally uncommitted, the performance gathers conviction to a reasonably thrilling account of the sixth movement and assuaging relaxation in the seventh.
Ilse Eerens is pure-voiced and moving in her fifth-movement solo, and Andrew Foster-Williams as authoritative as required in his two solo spots. Occasional unclear or untidy ensemble (as in the third movement fugato) do not detract from a satisfying and enjoyable account of this masterwork, though I wouldn’t put it in the front rank even of DVD performances.