JOHANNES BRAHMS (1833-1897)
Ein Deutsches Requiem
Lucia Popp (sop)
Wolfgang Brendel (bar)
Prague Philharmonic Choir/Lubomir Matl
Czech PO/Giuseppe Sinopoli
rec 1982 ELOQUENCE 469
The Eloquence label are a force to be reckoned with. Performances of this
calibre do not grow on trees. The Requiem predates the First Symphony being
the work of a 35 year old composer immersed in the study of Schütz and
living in the dark cloud of the loss of his mother and of his friend Robert
Schumann. All concerned tap into the work's inward communion: closer to Brahms
in Second Symphony mode than in Third.
This was a DG/Supraphon collaborative project recorded in a cosseted acoustic
in Prague. Some may not take to the 'warm bath' of this venue. At £4.99
or 10USD this is well worth the experiment provided you do not take against
the soft-focus reticence of the sound. The effect overall recalled my first
live performance of the Requiem in Bristol Cathedral in the lonely Winter
of 1971. The Bristol Choral Society and Bristol Sinfonia were, if I recall
correctly, conducted by Sidney Sager.
The Sinopoli recording came in for some stick (in fact a battering) when
first issued as part of a 3 LP box - a volume in DG's complete Brahms edition
for 150th anniversary of the birth. I certainly agree that this
is not a disc to track down if you are looking for glamorous impact. There
is no lack of blossoming power (e.g. at 3.50 in 'Denn wir haben' which is
touched with Schumann's fire, still hot, from the Fourth Symphony and the
monumentalism of Handel) but hard edged definition is not in evidence.
The singing of the female section of the choir flowers generously at 7.55
in the heavenly 'Denn alles Fleisch, es ist wie Gras' and this is by no means
isolated. The ladies also lend a florid passion at 9.20 in 'Herr, Lehre doch
mich'. Brendel has a smouldering brand of a voice but the heat is dissipated
somewhat by his vibrato when he is called on to sustain a note for any length
of time. Lucia Popp's voice while exalted and expressive has a similar
characteristic at that stage in her career.
As usual with Eloquence there are no notes or texts.