"Many years ago, I sang this work in college and the emotions it evoked are still with me today when I listen to this CD. This is a Protestant requiem, and the text is quite different from what we are used to hearing in the Catholic requiem mass, so the music will be much more meaningful if the listener learns the words (this version is sung in German). This is a work of mourning and consolation for the living--Brahms dedicated his requiem not only to his mentor Robert Schumann, and his mother, but to all of us who are still among the living.
'The' classical version of this work is probably the 1962 EMI recording, conducted by Otto Klemperer and sung by Elizabeth Schwarzkopf and Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau. However, André Previn has produced a worthy rival, recorded in 1986 at All Saints Tooting (what a perfect studio for a work that relies so somberly on its horns!). Samuel Ramey's radiant basso cantante (here, at the top of his fach) and Dame Margaret Price's beautiful lyric soprano highlight the solos. The Ambrosian Singers glide in a solemn and steadfast arc above the depths of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. Overall, André Previn has achieved a lush, well-balanced sound in a work where the orchestra could easily overpower the singers. He gives this performance an inexorable momentum, guiding the Requiem through its seven slow movements like the passage of a dark funeral cortege through a silent crowd of mourners.
This insistent, dark passage can be heard most especially in the second movement, "Denn alles Fleisch, es ist wie Gras" ("For all flesh is as grass"), where the solemn chant of the choir rises above the surging bass lines of timpani and brass as Death inexorably harvests the living. I think many in my choral group would have wept during this movement if we hadn't been singing.
The transience of earthly existence gives way to the joyous certainty of eternal life in the final movements of this great Requiem. The listener is brought gently from darkness into light: "Oh death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?" To paraphrase the seventh and final movement, Brahms may be resting from his labours, but his majestic Requiem lives after him. "
For 'Marge' Too!
S Duncan | London | 10/14/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"At a good price and with excellent soloists and a good choral performance, I recommend this as a clear first choice. For those drawn to the sombre side and `tuneful,' imaginative music, Brahms' German Requiem deserves to be heard and will not disappoint.
`Selig sind, die da Leid tragen, denn' (`Blessed are they that mourn') is soothingly and reverently sung.
`Denn alles Fleisch, es ist wie Gras') (`For a all flesh is as grass') has a `Russian' flavour with its ominous drums. The entire piece seems focused on an end result: mortality; death is inevitable.
`Herr, lehre mich doch, dass esein End emit mir haben muss'(`Lord make me to know my end, to consider my frailty that I must perish') is woven through with Ramey's authoritative bass/baritone. This is where the `fire and brimstone' is.
The chorus then floats into `Wie lieblich sind deine Wohnungen' (`How lovely are thy dwelling places') on a cloud of warm air. Not too slow as to be sluggish but at a stately progression.
Then, the highlight of the CD for me: pure-toned and golden hued, if Margaret Price doesn't convince you of hope at the end of `Ihr habt nun Traurigkeit;' (`Ye now have sorrow') then no-one else will. Exquisite.
`Den wir haben hie keine bliebende Statt' (`For here we have no continuing city') reminds me of some of the more exciting parts of Wagner's Ring, mixed with Beethoven's Fifth. There is a sense of an imminent and epic event and the chorus, intermittently dispersed with Samuel Ramey's potent baritone, sings well.
This beautiful work then closes with a sombre `Selig sind die Toten' (`Blessed are the dead'). "
Samuel Ramey shines in Previn Brahms
pyramidcvv | Western US | 11/15/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Previn's 1986 reading of the Brahms Requiem is a worthy addition to any music collection. With the top-notch Ambrosian Singers, star soloists, and the brilliant work of the Royal Philharmonic, this budget CD is really a steal.
Like Karajan, Previn takes slow tempos (total time: 75'56") to draw every bit of romance and emotion out of every phrase. Movements 1 and 7 feature lush, thick readings that you won't soon forget. The brass work is stunning in Movement 2. Movement 3's fugue is one of the most intense choral buildups I've ever heard. The chorus lets loose its shattering power in Movement 3's fugue and Movement 6's "Denn es wird die Posaune".
Samuel Ramey was my major draw to this album. The famed bass baritone has a unique sound that seems to make new even the most often performed music. If you are a Ramey fan, this CD is definitely worth your attention.
I found the recorded sound very satisfactory.
Texts and translations included."
Best cast ever assembled in stereo
James C. Whitson | Seattle, WA USA | 05/19/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Margaret Price and Samuel Ramey were not cast for their outstanding diction or their ability to convey textual meaning. They simply have the most beautiful voices ever put to wax for this score. Has there ever been a more beatified reading of the soprano solo? Gorgeous creamy sound and legato. The chorus is superb, and the tenor section sounds like it was imported from La Scala.
This is a performance where musical values dominate, and the digital recording is a marvel of clarity and balance. Sensitive, reverent, and appropriate tempi from Previn, who draws great sonority and detail from the RPO. Don't pass this baby up."