Monday, 19 August 2013

Brahms A German Requiem Prom 47

Hearing The Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment play Brahms' German Requiem  with Marin Alsop, restored its true period context. Brahms uses texts from the Bible, but, being a non-believer, didn't write a conventionally pious Mass.  Ein deutsches Requiem is just that, A German Requiem. Brahms looks back on North German tradition, and by extension to the whole spirit of the Reformation. In pious, obedient Catholic Austria, that in itself suggests rugged independence of spirit. Period instruments create lighter, cleaner textures, evoking the spirit of Protestant piety. "Brahms free of the thick veneer of varnish", I wrote many years ago about a particularly powerful Vier ernste Gesänge. The same would apply to this OAE performance. I would have liked even greater asperity but this was the Proms where you have to think about the wide spectrum of audience expectations. Besides, I'm immersed in the Salzburg Meistersinger (review to come soon) and its perceptive take on German traditions. I keep hearing  "Johannes Brahms, Johannes Brahms" instead of "Johannes Sachs".

Claire Seymour reviewed Prom 47 Brahms Requiem in Opera Today. "Alsop consistently gave the text — garnered by the composer himself from Luther’s German Bible and from the Apocrypha — room to speak without undue force, and the result was a remarkably intense quietude matched elsewhere by an equally dignified and moving radiance"....

"The second movement, ‘Denn alles Fleisch, es ist wie Gras’ (For all flesh is as grass), began with fateful gravity, the timpani’s dark, funereal pulses sensitively articulated by Adrian Bending. Legend has it that a pre-premiere run-through of the first three movements of the Requiem were somewhat sabotaged by the relentless fortissimo pounding of an over-enthusiastic timpanist; here, and throughout the work, Bending offered a master-class in percussion playing, achieving tense restraint, insistent power, and building to perfectly judged, thrilling climaxes. The movement roved through alternating passages of despair and resignation before the Choir’s grandiloquent outburst, ‘Aber des Herrn Wort bleibet in Weigkeit’ (But the Word of the Lord endureth for ever)." Read the whole review HERE.

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