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Brahms: A German Requiem
Deutsche Grammophon, 2005
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Solti's *German Requiem*: Majestic, Dramatic, Consoling
It was probably a good thing that Sir Georg Solti put off recording a
cycle until the late 1970's, for by then he had developed a particularly close rapport with his Chicago forces and matured considerably as a conductor. Potential listeners need not worry that Solti, the erstwhile firebrand, might fall into the trap of sensationalizing this most inward-looking of
s. As with his contemporaneous Brahms symphony recordings, Solti advocates a surprisingly sober and deeply considered approach to the composer.
Indeed, excessive sobriety has been a persistent criticism of this *
Requiem* since it was first issued. Yet, despite leisurely tempos, and an emphasis on the dark side of Brahms's scoring, Solti manages to convey the full impact of the work's great dramatic moments as well as the consoling message of its more serene passages. Indeed, the conductor understands that Brahms gives the listener much to contemplate in this most philosophical of Requiems, and for this reason he is in no hurry (as he could sometimes be in Mahler and Bruckner) to get to the "exciting" parts--thereby letting the tension sag elsewhere.
From the very opening, "Selig sind die da Leid tragen," Solti conveys a sense of spaciousness by building the orchestral palette upon an unusually rich and solid bass register (recalling Furtwängler and Bruno Walter). Yet he also manages to keep the often dense contrapuntal texture clear--indeed remarkably so in the great choral fugues that conclude the third and sixth movements. He is greatly assisted in these efforts by Margaret Hillis's superb Chicago Symphony Chorus; they sing throughout with gorgeous tone, soaring legato lines, and manage to negotiate every challenge of this fearsomely difficult choral writing with rare aplomb.
While the soloists don't quite measure up to the best of the competition (e.g., Schwarzkopf and Fischer-Dieskau for Klemperer, Janowitz and Crass for Karajan/DG), they sing with sufficient eloquence to do justice to their important roles. Bernd Weikl's gritty timbre may not fall seductively on the ear, but he does manage effectively to convey the requisite inwardness in 'Herr, lehre doch mich," and a strong sense of narrative involvement in the apocalyptic sections of the sixth movement. Despite the more pleasing voice, I am less take with Kiri te Kanawa's contribution, which to me sounds just a bit too sweet and cozy (almost like the musical equivalent of a Hallmark sympathy card) in her solo. But then that is the movement I am most apt to skip over when listening to a recording, anyway (I have rarely heard a rendition that doesn't sound mawkish, and not in keeping with the tone of the work as a whole); I personally wish Brahms had kept to his original conception of the work--minus the soprano solo.
But I digress. This is, overall, one of the most splendid versions of the *German Requiem* ever recorded. It may miss some of Klemperer's incisiveness, Karajan's evocation of the numinous. Walter's nobility, Ansermet's poise, Furtwängler's storming of the heavens. But what it lacks in these qualities, it makes up in spaciousness, fervor and sheer amplitude of sound. Rarely, for instance, does the organ make such a positive contribution to the texture as here--thanks to Solti's keen ear for balance and the engineers' consistently successful efforts to capture it.
Given the low price tag of this current reissue, complete on a single, generously filled, CD (originally it spread onto a second, coupled with the Haydn Variations), Solti's *German Requiem* can be confidently recommended either to anyone who are in the market for a first recording, or to those who might want to add another version to their collection.
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The closest to heaven you'll ever get...
An old man told me, and this is after our love for classical music broke the ice in a dull conversation, that when he was in his 50's he attended the
at the Met in NY. An elderly gentleman next to him sat still and suddenly a single tear rolled down his cheek. My conversation-peer said: He looked at me and said: "This is the closest to heaven you'll ever get."
The Georg Solti edition offered here is outstanding, as to be expected from Mr Solti, a remarkable conductor. It's a must-have in any collection and the price is a safe bet. Highly recommended.
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The brilliant lineup, consisting of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra conducted by Sir Georg Solti, Kiri Te Kanawa and Brend Weikl, delivers an excellent performance of
. And all this at the ridiculous price of less than $8... Buy immediately...!
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Ein deutsches Requiem (A German Requiem), for soprano, baritone, chorus & orchestra, Op. 45: Selig sind, die da Leid tragen | Ein deutsches Requiem (A German Requiem), for soprano, baritone, chorus & orchestra, Op. 45: Denn alles Fleisch, es ist wie Gras | Ein deutsches Requiem (A German Requiem), for soprano, baritone, chorus & orchestra, Op. 45: Herr, lehre doch mich | Ein deutsches Requiem (A German Requiem), for soprano, baritone, chorus & orchestra, Op. 45: Wie lieblich sind deine Wohnungen | Ein deutsches Requiem (A German Requiem), for soprano, baritone, chorus & orchestra, Op. 45: Ihr habt nun Traurigkeit | Ein deutsches Requiem (A German Requiem), for soprano, baritone, chorus & orchestra, Op. 45: Denn wir haben hie keine bleibende Statt | Ein deutsches Requiem (A German Requiem), for soprano, baritone, chorus & orchestra, Op. 45: Selig sind die Toten
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