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|Johannes Brahms, Otto Klemperer, Philharmonia Orchestra and Chorus|
Brahms: Ein deutsches Requiem [A German Requiem]
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 unmatche... more »
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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. Drawing committed playing and singing from his forces, Klemperer opens the door to the beauties of the music without fuss or fanfare. Both soloists are exemplary: Schwarzkopf's expressive portamento now sounds a bit dated in style, but her singing is characterful, while Fischer-Dieskau is a paragon of restrained expressiveness. The singing of the Philharmonia Chorus is especially beautiful. EMI has done a superior job of remastering the original recording. Balances and tone quality are quite fine, and the spacious Kingsway Hall ambience conveys with lifelike immediacy. Compared with previous CD incarnations, there is new depth to the image and better resolution of detail--the weight of the organ can really be felt, as can the timpani strokes in "Denn alles fleisch es ist wie gras," and one finds greater presence and definition in the chorus and considerably more richness of tone in the orchestra. There is still some distortion in the climactic moments; for example, what sounds like tape saturation frizzes a couple of the big Beethovenian choral proclamations at the end of "Denn alles fleisch es ist wie gras." Such things are but a small blemish on what is an absolutely ravishing restoration of one of the most valuable recordings of the stereo era. --Ted Libbey
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Yeah! A performance worthy of the music!
Gregory M. Zinkl | Chicago, IL | 12/17/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Everything Mr. Libbey says in his review I totally agree with. My only issue is with Schwarzkopf's singing, which, while lovely, I prefer a more ethereal sound--I prefer that the voice during the apex of the arching vocal lines "projects" into infinity. Gardiner's soloist attains this otherworldliness, if memory serves.Given that one minor exception, I am very pleased to have finally listened to, and own, this recording. After hearing so many recordings whose performances fall short--whether by the big shots or the unknowns--this one has done it all for me. This recording has earned its stripes as a recording of the century--a title Gardiner's try could have had (or tied for) if his orchestra had been something a little less scrawny and weak. How can you reasonably expect the fury of the 6th movement to project without an orchestra that has the power of the Philharmonia strings in top form? Which gives another chance to plug the Philharmonia's playing--angelic. From the violas and celli who carry the burden of the string writing in I, to the brass (II and VI are notable for even more exceptional, powerful playing) and finally to the woodwinds, characterful and sensitive in every solo. Klemperer's tempi are slow (of course), but his climaxes are overwhelming, and he is appropriately gentle when the music calls for it. All in all...a great recording and performance!"
Klemperer's German Requiem
Robin Friedman | Washington, D.C. United States | 01/18/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I have been listening to Brahms's German Requiem to commemorate the death of a parent of a dear friend. This beloved work received its first performances in 1868 and 1869. Its immediate inspiration was the death of Brahms's mother and, probably, the death of Robert Schumann as well. Although many view Brahms as a conservative composer, the spiritual message of this work is distinctly modern. In writing his Requiem, Brahms eschewed traditional religous doctrines, creeds, and texts. Instead, he chose passages from the Bible (Old and New Testaments and Apocrypha) that emphasized a sense of the mystery of life, the fragility of life and inevitability of death, the hope for the future, and the value of patience and endurance. The German Requiem gives a sense of spirituality in a secular age. Brahms himself saw his work as a "human" rather than as merely a German requiem. Malcolm Macdonald, in his 1990 book, "Brahms", has aptly captured much of the spirit of this music when he describes it as showing "human love as the equivalent of God's love of the cosmos" (p. 22). Human love encompasses the love of a parent, friend, child, sweetheart, and much else.
I can't think of a more fitting interpreter of the German Requiem than Otto Klemperer or of a better recording to bring this music to life than this historic, 1961 recording with the Philharmonia Chorus & Orchestra, with soloists Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau and Elisabeth Schwartzkopf. The recording is available at modest price on the EMI Classics series of "Great Recordings of the Century." It is that, indeed.
Otto Klemperer (1885-1973) was himself a religious seeker passing through at various times of his life periods of skepticism, Judaism, Christianity, and then near the end of his life a return to Judaism. He was at his best in the performance of serious, monumental music and in the works of Beethoven and Brahms. (His performance of Beethoven's Missa Solemnis is also masaterful and available on this series.) This recording captures the solemnity and gravity of Brahms's great Requiem and also its lyricism -- its ultimate message of comfort and hope. The sound is outstanding. The chorus can be heard clearly and understood, and the instrumentation of the work comes through. The soloists, Fisher-Dieskau and Schwartzkopf perform their important parts in the third, sixth, and fifth sections beautifully. Klemperer's tempos are slow and magesterial.
The Requiem combines Brahms's study of the music of the past, primarily Bach and Mozart, with his need to compose in his own voice. Put otherwise, Brahms tried to reformulate the religious sensibilities of the past for the modern temper. Large massive fugual sections conclude the second, third and sixth sections of the requiem and counterpoint looms large in much of the rest of the work. But the prevailing tone is one of peace and comfort.
The first movement of the work is a consolation to mourners set in the lower registers of chorus and orchestra. The second movement is a lengthy and solemn sarabande which celebrates the transience of human life and the hope of an enduring life hereafter. This movement includes grand music for brass and tympani as well as for the chorus and the monumental fugue. Fischer-Dieskau delivers an eloquent prayer for wisdom and understanding in the third movement which, again, is capped by a great fugue. The fouth movement, the climax of the work, is short and songlike and captures the etherial spirit of heaven. The fifth movement belongs to Ms Schwartzkopf as she delivers Brahms's message of hope and consolation to mourners. The sixth movement is an impassioned dialogue on the mystery of life between the chorus and Fischer-Dieskau culminating in a grand fugue of glory to God. The finale returns to the movement of the opening, in a higher register, and closes the work on notes of hope and serenity.
The German Requiem is one of the treasures of music. Klemperer's version is an inspiration and will move both new listerners and those familiar with Brahms's great score."
Towering and profound.....
Timothy Mikolay | Pittsburgh, PA | 11/16/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Klemperer was a big man and I have yet to hear a recording where musicians have sounded so stately and play with such breadth and grandeur as do these people. I would not dare say that this reading is even incomparable; it stands alone. Such immense forces in my listening experiences have never performed with such compassion and profundity. This is must to add to any CD library. This is an immensely satisfying recording."