Brahms: Ein deutsches Requiem

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3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

WORKS: Ein deutsches Requiem
PERFORMER: Harolyn Blackwell (soprano), David Wilson-Johnson (baritone); LSO & Chorus/André Previn
This live recording of the London Symphony Orchestra’s June 2000 performance of the German Requiem makes a pleasing, if not ground-breaking, contribution to an existing catalogue of more than 30 versions. The orchestral playing is its greatest strength. André Previn chooses easy-breathing tempi which reveal the clarity and variegated textures of Brahms’s string-writing and the silverpoint detail of the LSO’s woodwind soloists.


The London Symphony Chorus leaves a little to be desired: I often longed for more ringing focus from the female voices, and firmer body and concentration in the men. Their entries in ‘Herr, du bist würdig’, at the end of No. 6, reveal the rough, sometimes threadbare edges.

David Wilson-Johnson’s baritone makes of ‘Herr, lehre doch mich’ a lean, supple invocation, and brings a sense of wide-eyed awe and wonder to the mystery of resurrection. Harolyn Blackwell’s liquid-gold soprano could be just a little more verbally engaging.


Roger Norrington, with Lynne Dawson and Olaf Baer (on Virgin) went furthest in disproving Bernard Shaw’s infamous declaration that the German Requiem could be borne patiently only by a corpse. I treasure their cleansing, reinvigorating performance. But I have to point to the Klemperer recording, with Schwarzkopf and Fischer-Dieskau, as the still unsurpassed performance, with its perfect balance of gravitas and grace, and its deep penetration of the Lutheran text. Hilary Finch