Brahms: Ein Deutsches Requiem

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Brahms
LABELS: Naxos
ALBUM TITLE: Brahms: Ein Deutsches Requiem
WORKS: Ein Deutsches Requiem
PERFORMER: Christiane Libor (soprano). Thomas E Bauer (baritone); Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra and Choir/Antoni Wit
CATALOGUE NO: 8.573061

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This is a choir-led performance of the German Requiem. So must they all be, in a sense, since so much of the work is written in a spirit of communal expiation and comfort. But the Warsaw Philharmonic Choir, a highly disciplined body capable of the most subtle gradations of tone, is always here the centre of gravity, creating the music’s existential continuum and arising to sombre unexpected splendour at ‘Die Erlöseten des Herrn’ and ‘Der Gerechten Seelen sind in Gottes Hand’, not to menton the lullaby-like fourth movement. The sixth movement’s climactic fugue does not quite rise to these heights, but the full-toned refulgence of the final ‘Selig sind die Toten’ sets a satisfying seal on the performance.

Antoni Wit seems to hold back emotionally so that the big choral moments can have maximum impact; his tempos are measured, with a notably slow ‘Denn wir haben hie keine bleibende Statt’ before the full forces get going. Christiane Libor and Thomas E Bauer are both appealing soloists, the former making the most of her opportunities for vocal tenderness in the fifth movement, the latter authoritative in his expository role. There is some beautiful orchestral playing, especially among the woodwind. One almost wants to award this five stars for the choir alone, but in such a very crowded field it just, as an overall interpretation, falls short. A sturdy, reliable introduction to the Requiem, nonetheless.

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Calum MacDonald