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Brahms: Ein Deutsches Requiem / Janowitz, Van Dam, Karajan

Release Date: 05/13/2008 
Label:  Deutsche Grammophon   Catalog #: 001099109   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Johannes Brahms
Performer:  José van DamGundula Janowitz
Conductor:  Herbert von Karajan
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Berlin Philharmonic OrchestraVienna Singverein
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 19 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

BRAHMS German Requiem Herbert von Karajan, cond; Gundula Janowitz (sop); José van Dam (bbar); Vienna Singerverein; Berlin P DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON 004400734398 (DVD: 79:00) Live: Salzburg 1978

In 1947, Herbert von Karajan, then scarcely known in the U.S., made the phonograph’s first recording of the Brahms German Requiem . It was followed by two distinguished stereophonic versions with the Berlin Philharmonic, one made Read more for DG in 1964, the other for EMI in1976. All were distinguished in somewhat divergent ways, the EMI stereo account being one of the more attractive items Karajan produced for that label. Purely on musical grounds, the live production featured here, if differing in a few minor details, is similar to those two admirable studio versions. The main issue, then, with this DVD, is how the video component adds to our appreciation of the conductor’s conception and execution of the work. To my mind, it adds little, if, indeed, anything. Granted on a very basic level, it is instructive purely in educational terms, showing those who have never seen a concert what a live performance of a work of this magnitude encompasses. But, as with so many videos involving such large forces, the camerawork, with its relentlessly shifting perspectives, doesn’t so much complement the music, as distract from it. But what of the many glimpses of Karajan? Unfortunately, one learns little from the experience, mainly because he is singularly uninteresting to watch. He uses no baton, and his beat is almost unvaried, regardless of the music’s pace or character. More often than not, he seems to be beating “in two”; sometimes he seems redolent of Stokowski in the way he sculpts air with his hands. On occasion he becomes meditative, with closed eyes. The point is, his podium demeanor, if less distracting than that of a Bernstein or Harnoncourt, will teach no one what a conductor should be doing with an audience behind him. If it’s learning about commanding podium practice, one must look elsewhere. Of course, the performance succeeds because it has been thoroughly prepared by a superior musician working with a magnificent chorus and orchestra and superior soloists. And certainly for those interested in Karajan, this performance is valuable, especially as it is preserved in first-rate sound.

FANFARE: Mortimer H. Frank

Picture Format: 4:3
Subtitles: German/English/French/Spanish/Chinese
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Works on This Recording

German Requiem, Op. 45 by Johannes Brahms
Performer:  José van Dam (Bass-baritone), Gundula Janowitz (Soprano)
Conductor:  Herbert von Karajan
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra,  Vienna Singverein
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1854-1868; Austria 
Date of Recording: 1978 

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