Brahms: Ein Deutsches Requiem

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Brahms
LABELS: BIS
WORKS: Ein Deutsches Requiem
PERFORMER: Solveig Kringelborn, Mariusz Kwiecie´n; Swedish Radio Choir; Rotterdam PO/Valery Gergiev (Rotterdam, 2008)
CATALOGUE NO: BIS DVD-1750

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This splendid performance of the German Requiem was Valery Gergiev’s final concert as music director and chief conductor of the Rotterdam Philharmonic after 15 years in the job.

You can tell it’s an emotional occasion, and one wonders if the choice of work – Brahms directed his Requiem towards the consolation of the bereaved rather than the fate of the departed – had its symbolic aspect.

The anonymous concrete modernism of Rotterdam’s De Doelen concert hall has little atmosphere of its own, and perhaps this is why there are so few general shots of orchestra, choir or audience.

The camera-work is almost all close-ups or tightly-arranged ensembles: Gergiev’s heavily expressive face, a few singers, a few instrumentalists, plenty of slow pans in to individuals, just occasionally a perspective view along a line or so of chorus.

This occasionally has its benefits: the camera does not slavishly follow the top line or the obvious big entry, and by leaving us looking at, say, the bassoons or the basses makes us more aware of the bass or the inner parts of Brahms’s polyphony. But the cumulative effect, over the whole of the work, is visually claustrophobic.

The performance itself is something else, though. This is a very deeply felt account, sung and played and directed by Gergiev with intense conviction. The build-up in ‘Und alles Fleisch’ is extremely dramatic, as are all the fugal portions.

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Mariusz Kwiecie´n is an authoritative baritone, Solveig Kringelborn meltingly maternal in her solo. The recorded sound is first rate. Certainly worth considering. Calum MacDonald