Brahms: Choral Works

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Brahms
LABELS: Tudor
WORKS: Nänie; Gesang der Parzen; Alto Rhapsody; Schicksalslied
PERFORMER: Alice Coote (mezzo-soprano); Bavarian Radio Chorus; Bamberg SO/Robin Ticciati
CATALOGUE NO: 7167

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Brahms’s shorter choral works with orchestra make an obvious coupling and cover a wide range of (predominantly dark) moods, adding up to some of his most profound meditations on life and death. This excellent new hybrid CD/SACD with the Choir of Bavarian Radio and the Bamberg Symphony Orchestra certainly displays the Brahmsian credentials of the young London-born Robin Ticciati, a protégé of Simon Rattle and Colin Davis.

These are passionate, intelligent, safely recommendable performances. In the grim Gesang der Parzen, Ticciati’s basic tempo is too sprightly: though the climax has much power, the wonderful, coldly visionary closing bars are somewhat skated over. Tudor’s recording, too, is just too bright and open for the sombre colours Brahms favours here. 

Otherwise these are sterling accounts, with just the right mix of tenderness and sorrow in Nänie and a real tragic forward motion to the central section of the Schicksalslied. Both these works are aided by the passionately committed singing of the choir.

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In the Alto Rhapsody, Alice Coote is an eloquent and thoughtful soloist, though not (yet) to be ranked with Marjana Lipovek in Claudio Abbado’s 1989 performance with the Berlin Phil (still my benchmark for these four works collected together), or Nathalie Stutzmann in John Eliot Gardiner’s recent version with the Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique (on Soli Deo Gloria). Calum MacDonald