Weill – Das Berliner Requiem

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Milhaud,Stravinsky,Weil
LABELS: Glossa
WORKS: Weill: Das Berliner Requiem; Vom Tod im Wald; Milhaud: Cantate de la guerre; Cantate de la paix; Stravinsky: Octet for Wind Instruments; plus Hindemith: Der Tod
PERFORMER: Hilde Venken (soprano), Helena Bohuszewicz, Marleen Delputte (contralto), Ivan Goossens (tenor), Jacob Bloch Jespersen (bass); Flemish Radio Choir; I Solisti del Vento/Paul Hillier


As with the horrifying paintings of Otto Dix and Georg Grosz, Weill’s Berliner Requiem offers a devastating indictment of the impact of the First World War upon German society during the Weimar Republic, as well as a deep sense of foreboding as to the possible direction the country might take in the not too distant future.

These qualities are made particularly explicit in the very provocative manner in which Weill sets Brecht’s texts, not least through the rather disturbing allusions to Bach’s Passions that are prevalent in the setting of the ‘Second Report of the Unknown Soldier.’

In the ‘Grosser Dankchoral’ which frames the work, Paul Hillier draws a much warmer texture from the Flemish Radio Choir than the rough-hewn conception from Philippe Herreweghe and the Choeur de la Chapelle Royale on Harmonia Mundi, the latter’s Musique Oblique Ensemble punctuating the stark accompaniment with powerfully stabbing accents.

These contrasting approaches convince equally, though in the later movements soloist Peter Kooy on the Herreweghe disc has a slightly more focused sound than Jacob Bloch Jespersen for Hillier. 

Both Weill’s Vom Tod im Wald and Hindemith’s Der Tod maintain the sombre mood and underlying menace of the Berliner Requiem and are delivered with powerful conviction. After this, Stravinsky’s Octet provides much-needed contrast.


The performance here is beautifully executed with a delightful and exuberant finale. Less immediate are the two Milhaud Cantatas, but the performance once again seems extremely committed. Erik Levi