Brahms: Ein Deutsches Requiem

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3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Brahms
LABELS: Telarc
ALBUM TITLE: Brahms
WORKS: Ein Deutsches Requiem
PERFORMER: Twyla Robinson (soprano), Mariusz Kwiecien (baritone); Atlanta SO & Chorus/Robert Spano
CATALOGUE NO: CD-80701

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From the opening deep throb of the basses, it is obvious that this is going to be a performance of the Deutsches Requiem that views the orchestral component as much more than an accompaniment. Indeed there are times when the chorus seems to recede a little towards the background, while instrumental lines are etched with great clarity. In general it’s a very sound performance, faithfully conveying the overall devotional tone of the score. What is absent is the last ounce of intensity. Robert Spano directs his Atlanta forces with a firm hand, as is obvious from the very slow, majestic tempo he achieves in the funeral-march portion of ‘Den alles Fleisch’, but the tension that should go with such a remorseless, deliberate motion somehow isn’t there. Mariusz Kwiecien has the requisite sense of authority in his big solos; Twyla Robinson brings tenderness to hers. So, as an account of one of Brahms’s most personal works this version remains curiously uninvolving. For sheer aching intensity one cannot do better than Kempe’s 1955 Berlin account (EMI, mono) with Fischer‑Dieskau as soloist, though the sound is now elderly. The benchmark for me remains Abbado’s sumptuous Berlin performance with sombre Swedish choirs plus Andreas Schmidt and Cheryl Studer; Simon Rattle’s more recent version (EMI) runs it close, and for lean authenticity Norrington (EMI) and Gardiner (Phillips) are both highly recommendable. Calum MacDonald