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Brahms: Ein deutsches Requiem, Op. 45
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And I won't pretend to be perfectly impartial to the question.
The "German Requiem" is something of an old friend. I'm a clarinetist who has served as a bass in various choruses over the years, so I have taken part in two performances of this magnificent work, alternatively as instrumentalist and singer. And before that, I was introduced to "How Lovely is Thy Dwelling Place" (in English translation) in the choir of an Episcopal parish, by a director whose fondness for the piece was evident in his management of the choir that Sunday.
Probably, none of these performances was quite free from sentimentality; but my impression is that none of these performances suffered greatly from the sentiment brought to the piece, brought out of the piece. Hey, the nineteenth-century was something of an Age of Sentiment, in music. It would be dishonest and musicologically suspect to prune away all sentimentality from the music of that day.
Which is not to say that the sentimentality cannot be overdone, hideously overdone.
I am a great fan of Brahms. Love the clarinet sonatas, the symphonies, the violin concerto, the piano concerti, the solo piano music, the lieder. And especially the German Requiem.
And this is all preface to a description of Gardiner's recording of this last.
It is not excessively sentimental; which is all to the good.
Nor is it soullessly dry, which is better still.Read more ›
Most performances of the German Requiem are mono-dimensional, treating all seven motets with equal musical solemnity - even sanctimony - though they were not composed at the same time nor in the same spirit. Just look at the texts, which Brahms has chosen from the German translation of the Christian Bible that he acknowledged not believing! #1 - Blessed are they that mourn... #2For all flesh is as grass... #3...surely every man walks in a vain show...he heaps up riches and knows not who shall gather them... #4How lovely are thy tabernacles... #5...You see how for a little while I labor and toil... #6...the trumpet shall sound...oh death, where is thy sting... #7 Blessed are the dead... Brahms has chosen a compendium of the best poetry in the Bible, such as Walt Whitman used as the model for his great free-verse arias in Song of Myself. Every poem should have its own musical voice, from quiet resignation to defiance to exultation in mortality.
John Eliot Gardiner has achieved just such an expressive triumph of poetry, of setting the music to the words rather than vice versa, and his is the first performance I've ever heard that does so.Read more ›
For the last twenty years John Eliot Gardiner has been associated with a rather scholarly approach to performance practice involving period instruments, obsolete tuning systems, and unusual bowings. Some argued that his approach had turned music into museum culture, thus alienating already flustered audiences; others saw in it a true revival of the music tarnished by centuries of irreverent incompetence. Gardiner's experience with the Baroque invariably comes across in the Brahms Requiem, particularly in the handling of choral polyphony modelled upon Schütz and Palestrina. Facilitated by the orchestra playing period instruments, Gardiner consciously attempts to 'free the work from the tradition of solemn, but smooth performances, by concentrating on the ruggedness of the original score.'
Carlo Maria Guilini represents an entirely different tradition, very much a Romantic one, less keen on details, concerned with thicker brush strokes and the overall Stimmung. Guilini's approach to this work is almost solely based upon its roots in the grand symphonic and choral traditions. His main fortes are the soloists Barbara Bonney and Andreas Schmidt, and an orchestra capable of producing mighty climactic textures.
The discrepancies between the performances are most discernible in the second movement 'Denn alles Fleisch, es ist wie Gras' and the sixth movement 'Denn wir haben hie keine bleibende Statt'.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
The music is fine but the CD skips at places and I have a Bose player so I don't think it's the machine. I don't remember if this was used, but I wouldn't do that again.Published 14 months ago by Meryl L. Fenster
In his notes to his set of Brahms symphonies (on Telarc), Sir Charles Mackerras makes a strong case that Brahms preferred the use of modest-sized forces in conducting his own work,... Read morePublished 20 months ago by Stanley Crowe
Recording signal level is very low. I can't understand why the recording engineer chose such a low level. Gardiner's translation of the work is my favorite one.Published 22 months ago by Goinkyoyoshi
I am in a community chorus and we are performing Brahms Requiem this May, and this CD was recommended by our Director, and I am really enjoying listening to the CD, and I know it... Read morePublished on January 7, 2014 by Kali Cook
The recording is very soft. I have to really crank the volume both in my truck and home stereo to hear it. Other than that fine.Published on April 25, 2013 by Marilyn Navan
I particularly like the tempi, the soloists are superb, the chorus and orchestra are fine, and of course you can't beat the music for gorgeousness!Published on February 28, 2013 by Julia Lester
Ultimately, what is a Requiem supposed to do? The dead are dead: they can't hear it. A Requiem is supposed to bolster the living in some of the most difficult times of their... Read morePublished on February 7, 2012 by Jonathan P. Higgins
John Eliot Gardiner's magnificent recording of Johannes Brahms 'Ein deutsches Requiem' for soprano, baritone, chorus & orchestra, Op. Read morePublished on April 27, 2011 by Grady Harp
This version of Brahms German Requiem is just fabulous!
Excellent recording and presentation hands down!! Read more