Among the major choral-orchestral works of the 19th century, Sir Roger Norrington and his former Orchestra, the Radio-Sinfonieorchester Stuttgart des SWR, have tackled over the years, now finally comes Brahms' "German Requiem." one of the most beautiful and popular sacred music works in the repertoire. Brahms’ contemporaries, including his close friend Clara Schumann were moved with the score and were enthusiastic about it - and it has been a favorite with the general public ever since. Although Biblical texts are used, the piece is not in the standard church-liturgical tradition. It was Brahms‘personal response to "those who mourn"! The central idea of this masterpiece is the reality of human existence. It is precisely this „earthly character“ that Roger Norrington uses to shape his interpretation emphasizing the grave beautify of the music and not religious awe; in this, Norrington draws us close to the composer’s intentions. He is ably supported by soprano soloist Christina Landshamer, basso Florian Boesch, SWR Vokalensemble Stuttgart and the NDR.
Widely respected as a pioneer in the field of early music who employed original instruments in performances of Baroque and Classical music, Nikolaus Harnoncourt is also admired for his insightful interpretations of 19th century music. His 2007 recording with the Vienna Philharmonic of Johannes Brahms' Ein deutsches Requiem is characteristic of his handling of the Romantic repertoire, insofar as he clearly knows the best scholarship on performance style, yet neither makes authenticity a fetish nor lets expression suffer through an obsession with period practice…
This is a rather brisk reading of Brahms' masterpiece, the most ambitious work in his output, one of the greatest compositions of its type. When I listen to this piece, I often sit numb, in awe of its profound beauty, of its emotional range and intellectual depth. I hadn't heard it for some time, so this recording occasioned a most welcome reacquaintance. Though Herreweghe's tempos often pushed the music to its limits here (except for the first section), the performance never actually sounded fast, or at least not offensively fast. In fact, it challenges my previous favorite, the Levine/RCA.
Celebrating 80 years of vigorous artistic life with Brahms’ expansive and consoling mass for the dead, Ein deutsches Requiem, the hr-Sinfonieorchester (Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra) under its Chief Conductor Paavo Järvi, is joined by soprano Natalie Dessay, baritone Ludovic Tézier and the Swedish Radio Choir in an interpretation described as “exemplary” by the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.
This account of the German Requiem really is one of the great recordings of the century. Even today, Otto Klemperer's monumental interpretation with the Philharmonia Orchestra and Chorus, recorded in 1961, remains unmatched among readings that emphasize the spirituality of the score. Sober and sustained, but not unduly slow, it places Brahms on the continuum of German sacred music going back through Beethoven to Handel, Bach, and Schütz.
Everything about this dvd has to be greatly admired. The sound captured on the recording is pristine (with the exception of the audience coughing in between the movements) and well balanced. The video direction and cinematography (if such a word is appropriate) is engaging and gorgeous, never indulging in unnecessary visual elements.