Subject: I have found a CD that I think you would enjoy
|Hindemith, Burmeister, Leib|
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Revealing, noble rendering of the German version of the Requ
Martin Selbrede | The Woodlands, Texas | 01/08/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Note first that this recording presents the German version of the Requiem, so you won't be hearing Walt Whitman in his native tongue. The English versions to beat are Hindemith's own stereophonic recording with the New York Philharmonic and the Schola Cantorum (originally a Columbia Masterworks LP) and Robert Shaw's digital version on Telarc (regarded by some as almost as authoritative as the composer's, given Shaw's intimate history with the work).
What is interesting about this version (which is a very good remastering of an analog recording) is the clarity Koch extracts from the orchestra, and the fascinating colors he teases out of textures other conductors have allowed to grow too thick. There is, in other words, a lighter, more transparent approach to the instrumental side of the score. I don't necessarily agree with every decision Koch makes, but most of them are more than defensible. On the other hand, we've certainly heard the final bars of the middle fugue exude much more power in the hands of others. The only problem instrumentally is the itchy trigger-finger of the percussionist handling the suspended cymbal in the "Song" -- he routine enters ahead of the beat. (Alternatively, perhaps he's watching the conductor's downbeat properly and everybody else is late -- choir included. Who's to know 40 years later?)
The choir performs very well, and despite this being an analog performance, it is easier to hear the individual choral lines in this recording as compared to the Shaw/Telarc release -- they are much more clearly delineated here. If you compared the two, not knowing which one was digitally recorded, you'd guess wrong in many choral sections. Koch looks to craft phrases by manipulating tempo, introducing ritardandi in the previously-mentioned "Song" when the vocal line (whether baritone or chorus) arches upward. I'm used to the more straight-laced reading metrically, but Koch's version isn't unpleasant and reveals an interior logic to the interpretation we don't often get with Hindemith.
The female soloist is top-notch, and sings to the level of her predecessors. The baritone, on the other hand, is a bit of a surprise -- at least, a surprise if you're used to the other soloists who've covered this part. First, his voice is almost tenor-like, rather than deep and rich. This took some getting used to at first, but one can't discount that in many passages he does bring out the emotional pain of the text. Second, he doesn't attack the text in places where his predecessors have virtually snarled out the words. This more laid-back approach might prevail at the behest of the conductor, so I don't know who specifically to blame for it -- but if you compare this to the previous versions mentioned, something appears to be very much missing. If you're not comparing, you wouldn't notice it. And, perhaps, the more aggressive treatment commonly accorded such portions of the Requiem is better suited to the original English idioms than to the German translations Hindemith created.
Since Hindemith's own recording with the NY Phil isn't available on CD (only the monaural version with the Vienna Symphony is extant, and THAT version is too flawed to serve as anything other than an historic document), the best first choice for the Requiem would be the Shaw/Telarc release. But this is a reasonably close second, and if you're only famliar with the Shaw, there are portions of this disc that are truly a revelation and a pleasure. Too bad no one version combines all the virtues of both.
If you're not familiar with this work at all, you're missing out on a profoundly moving experience. This is one of the greatest choral works of the 20th century, and deserves a larger audience. Those who've attended a live performance invariably report being moved to tears by the experience. Since the text is Walt Whitman's, this is more a secular Requiem than anything following Catholic or Protestant expectations. While the original Whitman poem was occasioned by the death of Abraham Lincoln, Hindemith's adaptation of the work was cued to the aftermath of World War II and its dead (perhaps starting with Roosevelt himself). The recent discovery of Hindemith's all-but-hidden incorporation of a Jewish hymn in the work suggests an acknowledgment of the Holocaust underlying Hindemith's intent: explicit so far as the music is concerned, but implicit in the sense that Hindemith didn't crassly point out the quotation in his lifetime."
What a surprise! Exciting Hindemith performance from Germany
W. Chiles | San Francisco, CA USA | 03/09/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I purchased this recording on an ARG recommendation. The performance is unfortunately in German rather than the original English of Whitman, but what a performance! Next to the dull recording made by Shaw in Atlanta, this one really crackles with excitement. They play this music like they really mean and feel it! Even if you think you know this piece and are underwhelmed by it,check out this outstanding performance. Berlin's recording is warm, resonant and clear. The orchestra and chorus are of the kind of outstanding quality one expects from German musicians.
I find things to like about Shaw's recording too; baritone Richard Stillwell and that outstanding choir, but until you hear this, you really don't know this moving piece."