GMCD 7302 – Ein deutsches Requiem by Brahms

Vasari Singers, Jeremy Backhouse – Conductor, Jeremy Filsell & Roderick Chadwick – Piano Duet

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CMQ, December 2006

GEISTLICHES LIED: German choral and organ music in the romantlc tradition

The Vasari Singers haue a velvet tone that is wonderfully suited to Brahms’s Ein deutsches Requiem. Their Performance of the lovely Chorus `Wie lieblich sind deine Wohnungen, Herr Zeboath!’ (known to many English-singing choirs as `How lovely are thy dwellings fair’) exemplifies the Vasaris’ command of line and Phrase, and their broad dynamic range. Soloists Claire Seaton and Colin Campbell are excellent in their rotes; and the piano duet accompaniment (Brahms’s own arrangement of the orchestral score) is executed with great sensitivity by Jeremy Filsell and Roderick Chadwick. Indeed, they attain the highest musical success of a piano duet partnership: they Sound like one musician (albeit a super-human one).

On the Vasari disc, Brahms’s Requiem is coupled with Geistliches Lied OP- 30: the Same work as begins the St Albans CD. It is interesting to compare a Performance by a mixed adult choir, accompanied by piano duet, with one by a cathedral choir of men and boys, accompanied an the organ. The Vasari Singers take more than a minute less over the piece than the Choir of St Albans Cathedral. White the acoustics of the recording venues and the different accompanying Instruments are doubtless significant factors in the tempi, the two conductors view the work from slightly different angles. Jeremy Backhouse achieves a passionate intensity, while Andrew Lucas’s Interpretation is a touch more serene. Although their German is clearly pronounced, both the Vasari Singers and the Choir of St Albans Cathedral never Sound anything other than fine English choirs.

Other pieces an the St Albans disc include Brahms’s Ach, arme Welt, Rheinberger’s Abendlied, two melodious pieces by Mendelssohn, and Bruckner’s Os justi and Locus iste The most substantial work in the programme is Rheinberger’s Cantus Missae (Mass in E flat).Unaccompanied, and featuring arching vocal lines, there are many melting moments in which the choir clearly revels – and so will the listener.

The organ of St Albans Cathedral is well suited to accompanying German choral music and fit is a very successful medium for the solos an the disc, Brahms’s 0 welt, ich muss dich lassen and Reger’s sumptuous Benedictus.

Although two very different discs, both are warmly recommended.

Classic FM July 2006

One of the earliest British Performances of Brahms’s Requiem, in 1871, took place in a private house in London. Due to lack of space, Brahms provided a transcription of the orchestral accompaniment for piano duet and that is the version performed here by the chamber-sized Vasari Singers. There’s an undeniable loss of dramatic splendour at the climax of the second movement (‘For all flesh is as grass’), but the greater degree of intimacy is highly appealing. The choir makes a pure, well-blended sound, Claire Seaton’s solo is ethereally beautiful in the fifth movement and Jeremy Backhouse holds it all together wonderfully well.
Warwick Thompson