WORKS: A German Requiem
PERFORMER: Sylvia McNair (soprano), Håkan Hagegård (baritone)Westminster Symphonic Choir, New York PO/Kurt Masur
CATALOGUE NO: 4509-98413-2 DDD
Recorded live in New York last April, Masur’s account of the Brahms Requiem comes in rather muted sound. Though the absence of a glossy sheen suits the spare orchestral textures, the surface is slightly rough, with a hint of distortion at climaxes.
The performance, if thoughtful and conscientious in approach, is muted too. Masur stresses the sobriety of Brahms’s fatalistic conception, observing the choral markings meticulously. He turns the saraband rhythms of the second movement into a sepulchral waltz – effectively, though the music’s solemn tread is compromised. The fugues merely chug along, tensionless, while the storm and stress of the finale’s evocation of the Last Trump wouldn’t rouse the living, let alone the dead.
The choir produces warm, well-modulated tone and displays a high degree of discipline, though their intonation can be suspect. Not one of your weighty baritones, Hagegård is nevertheless direct and expressive in his solos, while McNair floats a limpid line in hers. George Hall