Brahms: Motets, Opp. 29, 74, 109 & 110; Marienlieder, Op. 22

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COMPOSERS: Brahms
LABELS: Chandos
WORKS: Motets, Opp. 29, 74, 109 & 110; Marienlieder, Op. 22
PERFORMER: Danish National Radio Choir/Stefan Parkman
CATALOGUE NO: CHAN 9671
The Danish National Radio Choir under Stefan Parkman is one of the jewels in Chandos’s crown. It distinguishes itself in repertoire of all periods, and its singing is consistently marked by maturity, intelligence and sensitivity.

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Brahms’s a cappella motets span three decades, the earliest set here, op.29, dating from his mid-twenties. The most striking and extended item, ‘Warum ist das Licht gegeben?’ (op 74, no l) is given a performance of great subtlety, well judged and contrasted, and admirably sustained throughout all its four sections. Secure counterpoint, chromatic precision and assured dynamics are the Danish choir’s hallmark, and a warm acoustic further enhances the attractive timbres of upper and lower voices. The early, disarmingly naive Marienlieder are beautifully delivered.

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The Naxos disc, featuring largely the same motets, is a worthwhile collection too. The recording is well focused, with marginally more emphasis on the top line. The youthful-sounding St.Bride’s choir brings a touch more sparky asperity, sprightliness and dramatic punch. Their op. 74 is less mysterious than Parkman’s, but equally yearning; three short accompanied works deserved a better organ, although the early Geistliches Lied is attractively done. Both choirs strain slightly in the Op. 110 motets. Roderic Dunnett