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Brahms: Choral Works / Blomstedt, Abbado, Preston, Cleobury


Release Date: 03/03/1997 
Label:  Decca   Catalog #: 452582  
Composer:  Johannes Brahms
Performer:  Jard van Nes
Conductor:  Herbert Blomstedt
Orchestra/Ensemble:  San Francisco Symphony Chorus OrchestraSan Francisco Symphony Orchestra
Number of Discs: 2 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length:  2 Hours 25 Mins. 

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This CD is reissued by ArkivMusic.

Notes and Editorial Reviews

The singing has real depth of feeling, with Simon Preston shaping the phrases most expressively throughout this record, the soft passages beautifully sustained and impressive.

A month or two ago I was writing about a disc which alternated between Bach chorales sung by the New English Singers and Bach chorale preludes played by their conductor, Simon Preston. The same plan is here applied to Brahms. It's a good plan, except that somewhere or other there is bound to be intonation trouble. Any choir singing unaccompanied for eleven minutes, as in the four-movement motet Warum ist dos Licht gegeben [Op. 74 no 2], is almost bound to change pitch fractionally. The listener would be quite unaware of this change but for the
Read more slight jerk when the organ starts the next piece. But I am making too much of this; by and large the alternation between unaccompanied singing and organ solos makes both media enjoyable.

Actually the Geistliches Lied does have organ accompaniment. This is a much earlier piece than its Op. 30 suggests, and one or two bits made me think of S. S. Wesley; which is no insult. I doubt if anyone would guess the composer of the Op. 29 motet, Es ist das Heil uns kommen her, which consists of a Chorale and Fugue, but it's a pleasant piece, and Simon Preston shapes the phrases most expressively—as indeed he does throughout this record. The finest of the vocal pieces are the two Op. 74 motets. The first is all about Death, and grandly sombre; the second is more energetic and not so long. They never seem to be sung, partly, I suspect, because Brahms always used the old clefs for music like this and his publisher used them too, and most choirs cannot cope with them. Pernaps there is a modern edition set out in the modern way, but if so it I have not seen it. The first of these Op. 74 motets is sung with real depth of feeling. I did not always hear enough bass, more especially of the second bass when they are dioisi, but the soft singing is beautifully sustained and impressive. This choir has tremendous dynamic range. I enjoyed the three Op. 110 motets too, though not quite so much; intonation is not impeccable in the second of them. The last has unusual vigour for Brahms.

...I have no information as to what organ is used, but perhaps this will be mentioned on the sleeve-note. The music, both vocal and organic, if the word is permissible, has been well recorded, and the disc is much to be recommended.

-- Gramophone [6/1968]
reviewing the original LP release of the Preston/New English Singers performances

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The great surprise for me in the Decca collection is Jard van Nes's superb performance of the Alto Rhapsody... [H]er warm, clear timbre is a joy in itself, but her singing also has much character and feeling. In fact I would say that her performance of the Rhapsody is possibly the best really modern version available... Robert Shaw's Telarc/Conifer CD contains the same programme as that of Blomstedt's, except that Blomstedt's disc also provides the stark, but evocative Begrabnisgesang, which is a very worthwhile additional item. In all other respects too, Blomstedt's disc is superior to that of Shaw... With Blomstedt there is no gloom, but plenty of strength, light and drama. As examples of his imaginative direction I would instance the way in which he brings an heroic, stoical quality to the song of lamentation which comprises Nanie, also the manner in which he contrasts the opening section of the Schicksalslied, which has an evocative grace and elegance in his hands, with the more turbulent second part, in which he brings out successive feelings of anger, uncertainty and then resignation. The Gesang der Parzen also comes to life vividly. ''Let mankind fear the gods!'' sings Blomstedt's chorus, and the feeling of man in the grip of superior beings is very apparent.

Decca's superlative recording quality sets the seal on an outstanding release.

-- Gramophone [8/1990]
reviewing the original release of the Blomstedt performances, available individually as Decca 430281

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When Abbado recorded Rinaldo in 1968 he was near the beginning of his recording career, and there is a fresh, eager response in his conducting. The Ambrosians sing beautifully, the orchestra is excellent and James King is a committed soloist...

-- Gramophone [8/1990]
reviewing Rinaldo, also available on a single CD, Decca 425030

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Works on This Recording

1. Alto Rhapsody, Op. 53 by Johannes Brahms
Performer:  Jard van Nes (Alto)
Conductor:  Herbert Blomstedt
Orchestra/Ensemble:  San Francisco Symphony Chorus Orchestra,  San Francisco Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1869; Austria 
Date of Recording: 1989 
Venue:  San Francisco,Cambri 
2. Begräbnisgesang, Op. 13 by Johannes Brahms
Conductor:  Herbert Blomstedt
Orchestra/Ensemble:  San Francisco Symphony Chorus Orchestra,  San Francisco Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1858; Germany 
Date of Recording: 1989 
Venue:  San Francisco,Cambri 
3. Nänie, Op. 82 by Johannes Brahms
Conductor:  Herbert Blomstedt
Orchestra/Ensemble:  San Francisco Symphony Chorus Orchestra,  San Francisco Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1880-1881; Austria 
Date of Recording: 1989 
Venue:  San Francisco,Cambri 
4. Gesang der Parzen, Op. 89 by Johannes Brahms
Conductor:  Herbert Blomstedt
Orchestra/Ensemble:  San Francisco Symphony Chorus Orchestra,  San Francisco Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1882; Austria 
Date of Recording: 1989 
Venue:  San Francisco,Cambri 
5. Geistliches Lied, Op. 30 by Johannes Brahms
Performer:  Simon Preston (Organ)
Conductor:  Simon Preston
Orchestra/Ensemble:  New English Singers
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1856; Germany 
Date of Recording: 1968 
Venue:  San Francisco,Cambri 
6. Rinaldo, Op. 50 by Johannes Brahms
Performer:  James King (Tenor)
Conductor:  Claudio Abbado
Orchestra/Ensemble:  New Philharmonia Orchestra,  Ambrosian Chorus
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1863-1868; Austria 
Date of Recording: 1968 
Venue:  San Francisco,Cambri 
7. Song of Destiny, Op. 54 by Johannes Brahms
Conductor:  Herbert Blomstedt
Orchestra/Ensemble:  San Francisco Symphony Chorus Orchestra,  San Francisco Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1868-1871; Austria 
Date of Recording: 1989 
Venue:  San Francisco,Cambri 
8. Motets (2), Op. 29 by Johannes Brahms
Conductor:  Stephen Cleobury
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cambridge King's College Choir
Period: Romantic 
Written: ?1860; Germany 
Date of Recording: 1990 
Venue:  San Francisco,Cambri 
9. Motets (2), Op. 74 by Johannes Brahms
Conductor:  Simon Preston
Orchestra/Ensemble:  New English Singers
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1863-1877; Austria 
Date of Recording: 1968 
Venue:  San Francisco,Cambri 
10. Motets (3), Op. 110 by Johannes Brahms
Conductor:  Simon Preston
Orchestra/Ensemble:  New English Singers
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1889; Austria 
Date of Recording: 1968 
Venue:  San Francisco,Cambri 

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