Excellent! better than Gardiner's; powerful, most inspiring
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I give this wonderful recording 4 stars only because I have yet to hear the highly touted Otto Klemperer version. But this is absolutely one of my favorite CD's. I am familiar with Philippe Herreweghe's interpretation as well as the well-regarded John Gardiner version. Both the Klemperer and Gardiner performances are saluted in the 1998 Gramophone Classical Good CD Guide and in various other guides as being definitive recordings of the German Requiem. The Herreweghe version is merely a mention in the 1998 Guide, and deservedly so; the performance and interpretation aren't terrible but are neither worthy of discussion.The Gardiner version is indeed quite good. The 1998 Guide discusses how Brahm's original metronome markings are faster than that of most interpretations. Brahms didn't intend for this requiem to be dreary. Rather the German words often speak of joy: "joy and gladness," "rejoice in the living God," and "your heart shall rejoice." Gardiner's is one of the few recordings to follow Brahms's intended tempo. Gardiner is also lauded for "best recorded sound and the best choral singing; his way with the score is also compelling and powerful." Gardiner's Requiem is definitely passable listening. I don't agree with another Amazon reviewer's observation that his orchestra sounds "scrawny and weak," although I also have issues with the orchestral sound. There are similarities between Gardiner's interpretation and Karajan's.But Karajan's recording is simply much more profound. (While I am most definitely a Brahms fan, I am by no means a Karajan fan and remain largely ignorant of and indifferent to his work, perhaps for reasons given by another reviewer elsewhere at this site.) Karajan has none of Gardiner's occasionally packaged sound. Karajan always sounds real and meaningful. Accurate tempo or not, and period instruments notwithstanding, Gardiner's interpretation has a touch of muzak to it, when compared to Karajan's much more poignant recording. Gardiner's is just a bit too cheerful, insensitive, martial or heavyhanded at times. It can resemble fairly predictable church music sung by a church choir. Karajan's work, while profoundly spiritual, is more secular and Beethoven's 9th-like, because symphony and choir cover the whole range of dynamics and not just part or most of it. Nothing is withheld. From Karajan's much less plodding but softly insistent cello and lower string beats at the start and the dynamic but hushed choir entrance shortly thereafter, to the glorious full choruses later on, Karajan effortlessly draws in and holds his listener with an unmistakable sincerity and richness of feeling that utterly convinces, awes and inspires. The tempo is not noticeably too slow, boring, heavy or tedious. Rather, Karajan conducts with that full, expansive Brahms quality that relaxes the listener into inhaling deep breaths and saying, "Ahhhhhhh," while at other times solidly embracing lighter feeling. The soloists, Janowitz and Waechter are fine. Like Klemperer's, Karajan's is an older performance. However, the remastered CD quality is perfectly acceptable. In the middle of part 6 (Denn wir haben...), the sopranos falter a half-note off in one of the many key changes, but this does not detract greatly from an otherwise most convincing performance, in which all have sung or played their hearts out. As this recording is to this listener's ears superior to Gardiner's much more publicized one, one can only conclude that sometimes the critics miss real quality."
Blygman | Paris, France | 03/01/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"It is the fifth time in a row that I am listening to this piece. I had previously the Gardiner interpretation which left me cold, unmoved. But this interpretation is so tuneful. The Wiener Singverein chor gives me gooseflesh. And when Gundula Janowitch sings, I am in heaven.
I am rediscovering this work. What a bliss ! A jewel !!! from beginning to end."
A good Brahms REQUIEM, but not the best
Alan Majeska | Bad Axe, MI, USA | 12/05/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Herbert von Karajan's 1965 recording of Brahms EIN DEUTSCHES REQUIEM is very good indeed, but not the best in my perception. That honor would go to Otto Klemperer's 1961 Philharmonia recording with Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau and Elizabeth Schwarzkopf as soloists (EMI). However, unless you are really fussy about sound - the EMI has better bass frequencies than Karajan's DG - Karajan should be fine.
I used to have this on LP, and bought the CD issue. My only complaint about the sound is that the bass seems weak on the CD, an important component in Brahms. Also, I don't hear the organ in Karajan's recording as much as in others: Klemperer, or Shaw/Atlanta (Telarc).
Sometimes Karajan has a mania for slow tempos, which in some cases serves the meaning of Brahms' texts - all from Holy Scripture - but some of his transitions don't seem natural in my perception. The Berlin Philharmonic plays wonderfully and the Vienna Singverein sings beautifully, but somehow the whole experience leaves me less satisfied than Klemperer or Shaw do.
This is not a bad recording job; I just have some reservations about the sound. And, Karajan will probably please most listeners; I read this is better than his digital DG recording, also with the Berlin Philharmonic. But I would go with Klemperer (EMI), Shaw (Telarc), or - if you don't mind good 1954 MONO sound - Bruno Walter/New York (Sony, "Bruno Walter edition.")"
The weakest Brahms Requiem from Karajan
Sam | 01/10/2008
(2 out of 5 stars)
"I have just compared the first three (out of four) studio recordings of Brahms' German Requiem by Karajan, and I'll go to the point at once - this one is clearly the least recommendable.
First of all the sound is incredibly recessed, quite unusual for a DG Karajan recording from the 60s. The remastering on The Originals series has made it a little firmer, but it sounds just as lacklustre as in this Galleria issue.
The first two movements sound very dense and haunted, with broad tempi and especially so in the introduction of Selig sind, die da Leid tragen. I actually found this first movement even more compelling than in the 1947 and 1976 recordings, save for the sound that as everywhere else 'crashes' orchestra and choir alike, making them sound as if the air is too stiff to allow them to breathe enough! All the more as, as was often the case in Karajan's recordings, the choir and in a smaller measure the soloists are made to sound overpowered by the orchestra. But it is worse than ever here: it sounds as if all the microphones were placed near the conductor, with distant strings and a choir that seem to stand at the other end of the (Jesus Christus) church. I can't understand why - contemporary recordings of sacred music by Karajan (Mozart's Requiem, Beethoven's Missa Solemnis...) are much better recorded!
Yet from the 3rd movement ('Herr, lehre doch mich') onwards the performance shifts to the dull side, with very sleepy, uncontrasted tempi that make the work, well, quite simply boring. By the time one has (at last!) reached the last two parts, inerty is complete. It deprives the sixth movement of any drive, which is unforgivable and definitely rules this recording out in the competition, as this part so badly needs contrasts.
Eberhard Waechter (mainly known for having sung Don Giovanni in Giulini's complete EMI recording) is unmemorable in both of his parts (the recording doesn't help, true), but Gundula Janowitz is quite simply my favorite soprano in part 5. She sounds quite simply angelic, even if the vision is once again clouded...
Go for the 1947 recording for a committed, fervent performance. It sounds almost Faurean, with a much less weighty orchestra and a transparent quality, even if the choir is far from perfect and the sound, well, bears its age. If you prefer your Karajan deutsches Requiem more Germanic and in stereo, the 1976 EMI recording is a much better choice than this 1964 DG one, with full-bodied sound at last, tempi better judged and contrasted, and more dynamics (the second part sounds terrific). As to the soloists, the situation is the reverse, with bass Jose van Dam human and humble, and Anna Tomowa-Sintow sounding rather ordinary. The sound has unfortunately never been remastered since the first appearance of this recording on CD in the late 80s - even on the latest Encore reissue. But it is perfectly acceptable to me. It can be hard to get everything right!"
Karajan's thrid German Requiem isn't as special as the other
Santa Fe Listener | Santa Fe, NM USA | 02/19/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Karajan felt a special affinity for the GermanRequiem, and I have cherished all four of his recordings. I don't want to repeat my reviews of the others, except to say that the first, from 1947, is a great spiritual document of music-making in the aftermath of WW II. The last, in digital sound from the mid-80s, features Karajan at his most autumnal with the Vienna Phil. and an inspired Jose Van Dam in the baritone part. These two are my touchstone recordings, but I also admire the 1976 reading on EMI, which has a younger Van Dam and the somewhat too big-sounding Anna Tomowa-Simtow in the Traurigkeit movement.
Here in 1964 Karajan had the sublime Gundala Janowitz, almost but not quite equaling the incomparable solo work from Schwarzkopf in the 1947 recording. The chorus in all four versions is the Wiener Singverein, which is unmatched in this work, but I find them a bit too placid in the first and second movements. The deciding factor against this recording is baritone Eberhard Waechter, who sounds prosaic where Hotter and Van Dam sound profound and moving. On that account alone I have to rank this as the least of Karajan's recordings, good as it is intrinsically."