Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)
Ein Deutsches Requiem, Op. 45 [68:44]
Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau (baritone), Elisabeth Schwarzkopf (soprano)
Philharmonia Orchestra & Chorus/Otto Klemperer
Antonin DVORÁK (1841-1904)
Biblical Songs, Op. 99, No. 1: Rings um den Herrn sind Wolken und Dunkel; No. 4: Gott ist mein Hirte; No. 10: Singet ein neues Lied [8:12]
Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau (baritone), Jörg Demus (piano)
rec. 1962 (Brahms), 1960 (Dvorák). ADD
ALTO ALC1202 [76:56]
Anyone who has followed my reviews will know that I hold a torch for Alto. Their catalogue is well worth your attention but seems to be demeaned as a budget outfit, unworthy of attention in some quarters. That is not a view I subscribe to. I have enjoyed greatly their multifarious reissues. They are now getting into the swing of reissuing celebrity LPs issued in the late 1950s and early 1960s as copyright gradually ebbs. At one time their stamping ground took them into Russian and Eastern European material where they have scored extremely well. Their Rozhdestvensky, Svetlanov and Kogan discs carry the banner for the vitality of Russian music-making. They are much more than just this, with the parent company, Musical Concepts, also treating us to Maurice Abravanel’s 1970s Vox efforts with the Utah Symphony Orchestra and a very attractive non-mainstream Beethoven symphonies box by the giftedly volatile Wyn Morris.
Sadly, I cannot greet the present disc. The sound in the Brahms is harsh and grates. This is a pity when we are treated to Klemperer’s monumental bass-rich reading. The Wilhelm Pitz-trained Philharmonia Chorus sing with sturdy, refulgent and sensitive precision. They sing the soul out of this work but that sound is to my ears just unsatisfactory. Perhaps the problem was the LP stock from which they worked on this particular project. By contrast there is nothing wrong with the three Dvorák songs. Fischer-Dieskau’s vehemence rings out in the flanking songs but he finds a reverential healing quietude for the second.
Try before you buy in the case of the Brahms.

Rob Barnett
Alto miss a beat with this one.

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