An understated Brahms
John Prothero | Garden Grove, CA United States | 05/24/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Most of the recordings or the performances of the German Requiem are orchestral performances with a chorus attached. They lack the passion of the text that is inherint in the Brahms score. In addition, they are recordings or performances of the Requiem that are taken on because it is a seminal orchestral/choral work. Shaw did not allow this to happen. The German Requiem was an intensly personal work for him, one that he used to teach workshops with at Carnegie Hall. And it shows on this recording. Shaw UNDERSTOOD Brahms (which I feel is very difficult to do!) And this recording is a CHORAL recording with the orchestra supporting it. You hear every subtle nuance of text and harmony in here, and the German diction (despite one reviewer's opinion) is quite good. But more than anything this recording brings the very essence of Brahms out: the tension that exists in all of Brahms' music; the beauty that can change with a simple line leading to ugliness; and the ability of Shaw and his formidable forces mastering the emotional waves that are in the score. This was a CD made to highlight the masterwork itself, with the performers doing that - performing. And his soloists serve that end as well. Arleen Auger's clean lyrical soprano, and the rich voice of Mr. Stillwell. If I had to get rid of ALL my CD's save one, it would be this one. Cannot be without it!"
An emotional experience
Jeffrey Danowitz | Ramat Aviv, Tel Aviv Israel | 07/04/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"For a long time I had difficulty with Robert Shaw and the Atlanta SO. I even once sold my copy of the Verdi Requiem with Shaw at a disc trade shop in Tel Aviv.
Times Change, and people change.
I have since rebought the Verdi with Shaw and I recently aquired this recording as well. While there are performances where the orchestra is more domineering, there is no performance where the vocal music both from the soloists and from the choir are so outstanding. The second movement is often played much more energetically -- but in this performance it is played correctly. The 3rd movement is breathtaking the fugue at the end is uplifting. The 6th movement with the solo by Auger is just the best 6th movement in any performance of this Requiem to date. She puts so much into it,and the interpretation by Shaw is the best I have heard. The last movement with its deep orchestral basses and rich choral harmony is played perfectly here.
I own many recordings of this work: Masur and the NYPO, Leinsdorf and the Boston Symphony, Sinopoli and the Czech Philharmonic, and the famous Klemperer with the Philharmonia. Some of these recordings are considered "the" recordings, however, THIS will be the recording that I will take with me when I travel, THIS will be the recording that I will listen to over and over again because this recording really touches me and really moves me in a way that other recordings just did not do.
If you like this requiem, then you need to hear this performance to get a new and fresh interpretation. If you don't like this requiem, then please listen to this performance. You now might just change your mind.
Don't hesitate to purchase this performance. When you hear it you will only wish you were there to see it live."
Undoubtedly the finest recording of the German Requiem!
Fred W Hood | Fayetteville, GA United States | 06/14/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Back in the dark ages of 1955's no one single recording of The German Requiem of Brahms could be noted! Most of all classical recordings of Bach, Beethoven, especially Brahms were not yet recorded until Robert Shaw began his ventures with Toscanini and his RCA Red Label LP's of Bach's St. Matthew//St. John Passions, Beehoven's Ninth Symphony and The German Requiem of Brahms. That Era of the late 1950's the name of Robert Shaw's Chorale came to the attention of Classical music lovers thru Chorale Tours of mayor cities like Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, Louisville, New York, San Deigo, St. Louis and Washington. My magical moment was his memorable Louisville Concert, when he first presented pieces to be later recorded as "Deep River and Other Spirituals!" That led many budding Church musicians to adopt him as 'sine qua non. of all Choral Masterworks. Most of us made time to attend his choral workshops or any of rehearsals within one hundred miles!
This version of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra & Chorus includes Mr. Shaw's best Chorus and favored soloists! His choice of Miss Auger came close to ones he later found in the Atlanta Chorus... Three good examples were Donna Carter, Sylvia McNair, and later Dawn Upshaw. All singers who were exposed to his interpretation of "Blessed, Blessed are they who mourn" or "How Lovely are Thy Dwellings" or any other of the 5 descriptive, dramatic, mystical pieces, likely will reflect those same magic qualities of Shaw's personality! He seldom ever allowed his sopranos or tenors as higher voices to overpower the darker richness of his inner sounds of alto, bass or baritone. Anyone singing baritone could realize occassions to switch-hit between the upper tenor part or lower basso profonda. All his great musical moments were dictated by extreme dramatic dynamics from pianissimo to full-blown fortes! If one listens to his carefully crafted restraint within those awesome comforting tones of "BLESSed, Blessed, bblessed..." in the final Chorus of similiar Biblical texts with ultra long tones stretched-out in two-bar long exquisite sounds of peaceful, hope-filled Comfort! Nothing found anywhere else in all Choral Music can match this master-piece! Gratefully from one older retired singer, Fred W Hood