Subject: I have found a CD that I think you would enjoy
A great but flawed performance
Alex Golub | Honolulu, HI | 11/25/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"For those of us who love Brahms's choral works but find the large scale stuff a bit overdone, this arrangement of the Requiem for chamber choir and piano sounds promising. And indeed, Accentus has produced another performance that is at once technically precise and expressive. Even the French-tinged German seems endearing rather than inauthentic.
There are two problems however. The first is that the ensemble in this recording tops out at just about 40 voices. This is hardly a chamber choir, and the while blend and tonality is excellent, the intimacy of a 16 or 24 voice ensemble is lost. Second, the piano lacks the color palette of an orchestra with strings and woodwinds. Despite Brahm's excellent piano reduction/rewrite there are point in which the piano fails to produce the delicacy of tone of a violin or to blend with the ensemble the way a woodwind could. The large size of the choir also changes the balance of the piece. The danger of this piece -- like many others -- is that the orchestra will simply drown out the chorus. With a true concert choir the same might be true of a piano, but here the relationship is the reverse. The big fat and furious chromatic fugues therefore lack a certain oomph.
The result is a disc that sounds like a perfectly realized run-through of the Brahms Requiem with a consumate professional playing rehereasal piano. Despite Accentus's undeniable chops and Brahm's skill in rescoring the requiem, the end result can't hide the fact that the recording is of a piece meant for orchestra reduced for the chamber and then realized by an overly large choir. As much as I love the recording and the idea, I must say I was a little disappointed."
The Brahms German Requiem with Two-Piano Accompaniment
J Scott Morrison | Middlebury VT, USA | 06/04/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Brahms's 'Deutsches Requiem' ('German Requiem') is surely one of the most-performed large-scale sacred choral works, beloved by professional choruses and orchestras as well as by amateur groups. Audiences never seem to get enough of it, either. This CD contains a slightly different version of the Requiem which is recommendable for two reasons. First, it is, as far as I know, the only modern recording that uses two pianos as accompaniment. Brahms made a four-hand piano arrangement (as he did for almost all his major works) and in this performance that arrangement has been slightly altered to accommodate two pianos, played superlatively by two virtuosi, Brigitte Angerer and Boris Berezovsky. This version is sometimes called the 'London' Requiem, because it was arranged by Brahms for a performance in London with a slimmed-down chorus. The chorus here, a superlatively trained French group called 'Accentus,' led by Laurence Equilbey, does a superior job of interpreting this most serene and genial of all requiems. Accentus has pin-point intonation, something I'd noticed in a couple of previous releases ('Transcriptions' and a Poulenc disc that has a spine-tingling account of 'Figure humaine'). Mme Equilbey and her singers are clearly at the top of their game. The second reason to recommend this set is that it gives amateur groups who do not have the services of an orchestra a chance to hear how it comes off with piano accompaniment. I can assert that it comes off very well! This performance also has two very fine soloists. Baritone Stéphane Degout has a ringing voice that well-serves Section III, 'Herr, lehre doch mich,' which also contains that wonderful fugue, here sung with absolute clarity as is the fugue in Section VI. Soprano Sandrine Piau sings a delectable 'Ihr habt nun Traurigkeit.' The full-out choral sections, including everyone's favorite section, 'Wie lieblich sind Deine Wohnungen' ('How lovely are thy dwelling-places'), do not seem to miss having the massive sound of a 120-voice choir; Accentus lists 40 singers, slightly more than the 30 voices Brahms had for his London arrangement. Only two minor quibbles. Occasionally the choir uses noticeably French-inflected German, not surprising in the circumstances. And in my particular booklet there is a collation error in which the French notes (and the libretto) are repeated and the English left out. A small problem that I suspect is unique to my set only. Recommended. Scott Morrison"
Great Recording of Four-Hand Version of Brahms Requiem
C. Fraley | Woodinville, WA USA | 03/12/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"My choral director recommended this recording, since we are singing this version of the Brahms Requiem. (Brahms himself did the reduction to four-hand piano from his orchestral score.)
Overall, the recording is very clear, and brings out the "chamber music"-ness of the four-hand version. It is very enjoyable to listen to, the German diction is good, the soloists are good, the pianists are good.
If you're looking for a four-hand recording of the Brahms Requiem, this is an excellent choice. If you have a recording of the orchestra version, this is still an excellent supplement--it is far more intimate than the orchestral arrangement."