Brahms

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Brahms
LABELS: Hannsler
ALBUM TITLE: Brahms
WORKS: Ein deutsches Requiem
PERFORMER: Christina Landshamer (soprano), Florian Boesch (bass); NDR Chor; SWR Vocal Ensemble Stuttgart; SWR Radio Symphony Orchestra, Stuttgart/Roger Norrington
CATALOGUE NO: 93.327

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Roger Norrington’s tempos have eased a little since his first, period instrument recording of Ein deutsches Requiem, but there is still something hair-shirtish about the interpretation. The ban on string vibrato imparts a scraggy feeling to the introduction of the opening movement, while the chopped-up phrasing at the beginning of the second will strike some as borderline eccentric.

There is, however, much to admire in the reading, not least the ripe-toned choral singing, and the way it’s captured by the wide-pan recording, enabling Brahms’s gorgeous part-writing to be properly apprehended and appreciated. Florian Boesch, too, is excellent, bringing a strong sense of conviction and compelling attention to textual detail in ‘Herr, lehre doch mich’. The concluding fugue here is stripped by Norrington of all stodginess, and is freshly cathartic.

The light-toned, iridescent soprano of Christina Landshamer suits the streamlined Norrington aesthetic. Her account of ‘Ihr habt nun Traurigkeit’ is lithely floated, and while some may feel an element of cossetting warmth is missing, others will prize the lissome purity. The choir excels again in the punchy muscularity Norrington brings to ‘Denn wir haben hier keine bleibende Statt’, a movement which can easily run out of gas before the trip is finished.

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There’s more slightly punctilious string phrasing in the concluding ‘Selig sind die Toten’, but again the bright, gleaming tone of the sopranos and the virile lower voices are very winning, as is the delicately etched wind playing. Not a first choice possibly, but certainly a refreshing listen. Terry Blain