GMCD 7134 – Master Works I Music by Johannes Brahms

Serenate Voices, David Beavan – Director, Jeremy Filsell & Francis Pott – Piano

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Classic CD – September 1997

Although they were conceived for a solo vocal quartet, Brahms’s Liebeslieder are often heard in choral performance. The advantage of using multiple voices per part can be greater clarity in the part writing, a wide expressive range, and the appealing sound of even a reasonable chorus, which is usually preferable to an undistinguished solo quartet.
However, a somewhat unfocused recording on this Guild release does little to aid textural clarity or create a sense of intimacy. Moreover, the voices are not so well matched or accurate in terms of intonation as to elucidate the part writing. The litany of shortcomings in the Liebeslieder grows as one observes the weakness of Serenata’s German pronunciation.
However if one heard this at a concert, one wouldn’t be too unhappy, especially when the choir turns its attention to some of the incomparable riches of Brahms’s choral output proper. The magnificent Darthulas Grabesgesang Op. 42 No. 3 is intelligently phrased and has a rapt quality. But tuning is a problem in other items; such as Ruf zur Maria.
Simon Trezise
Alternatives: Liebeslieder – Bonney/von Otter/Bär/etc. (EMI)