A Darkling Treat for Karajan and Schwarzkopf Aficionados
john | USA | 08/21/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"It cannot be emphasised enough that this is an historic recording from 1947 and due to poor sound quality is only of interest probably to those who have a special admiration for the stellar cast of interpreters. The fact that this recording was made so close to the end of WW II is also of interest to me. If you wish to hear Karajan with better sound and don't mind a different cast, I recommend his latter recording with Janowitz and Meyer.
The transfer is quite good, yet much detail is inevitably lost: for example the violins in much of Herr, lehre doch mich; and the harp sounds scrawny. The transfer seems to favour the soloists: the orchestra and chorus sound muddy, yet the voices of Schwarzkopf and Hotter are absolutely vivid. Karajan does an excellent, memorable job, taking things at a sepulchral pace, yet keeping everything together with a sure hand. This is a dreary reading for mourners to wallow in. The unnerving drone of II, Den alles Fleisch as ist wie Gras will give you goose bumps. Karajan does seems to have trouble in III, Herr, lehre doch mich, though: Hotter has a beautiful, tenor-like voice, yet the fugue is a muddy mess. Karajan clearly mastered such obstacles later in life, as evinced in his splendidly lucid later recording of this number with baritone Wolfgang Meyer.
Aficionados of Elisabeth Schwarzkopf will not be disappointed. Indeed, though I had heard many of her recordings, I never fully appreciated her rich, sturdy voice until this disc. Her singing in Ihr habt nun Traurigkeit is pure sunshine.
The price is right. Booknotes are sparse and do not have the lyrics; but as Brahms' Requiem is such a difficult work to take in, I ended up buying the score anyway. It is one of the most profound contemplations on death of all time.