WGBH Radio WGBH Radio theclassicalstation.org

Weill: Das Berliner Requiem; Milhaud, Hindemith, Stravinsky / Hillier

Flemish Radio Choir
Release Date: 08/24/2010 
Label:  Glossa   Catalog #: 884450  
Composer:  Kurt WeillPaul HindemithIgor StravinskyDarius Milhaud
Performer:  Jakob Bloch JespersenIvan GoossensMarleen DelputteHilde Venken
Conductor:  Paul Hillier
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Flemish Radio ChoirI Solisti del Vento
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Multi 
This title is currently unavailable.

Notes and Editorial Reviews

WEILL Berlin Requiem. 1,2 Vom Tod im Wald 2. HINDEMITH Der Tod. STRAVINSKY Octet. MILHAUD Cantata de la Guerre. 3 Cantata de la Paix 1,3,4 Paul Hillier, dir; 1 Ivan Goossens (ten); Read more 2 Jacob Bloch Jesperson (bs); 3 Hilde Venken (sop); 3 Helena Bohuszewicz, 4 Marleen Delputte (alt); I Solisti del Vento; Flemish R Ch GLOSSA 922207 (66:57 Text and Translation)

This extremely strange but fascinating disc combines works by two prominent members of the modern German school, one member of Les Six, and that lone wolf who influenced them all, Stravinsky. The theme of all the choral/vocal works is that of death and coping with death. Stravinsky’s octet for winds seems almost the odd work out in this mixture, though Paul Hillier gives as his reason for inclusion the fact that it was the composer’s seminal neoclassic work.

Of course, the question isn’t merely whether or not the juxtaposition of these varied pieces works as a concert, but whether or not the performances are valid and moving. I found them very fine on both counts. Vom Tod im Wald was originally a part of the Berlin Requiem, but Weill removed it shortly before the premiere and cast it as an independent, brief (nine-minute) cantata. A secular Mass for the dead, Berlin Requiem is based on poems from Bertolt Brecht’s Hauspostille that present a view of death through the eyes of the people. Though commissioned by Radio Frankfurt to honor the 10th anniversary of the First World War, it was also probably written to commemorate the death of combative pacifist Rosa Luxemburg. The music is in Weill’s populist style, and almost sounds like a more serious relative of Threepenny Opera, while Tod im Wald is altogether blacker in mood and more complex in style. Weill was wise to separate the two. Ivan Goossens has a bright tenor voice, but bass Jacob Bloch Jesperson really impresses me with his rich and powerful instrument. Philippe Herrweghe gives a fine account of both Weill works on Harmonia Mundi 1951422, but for me his soloists aren’t quite as good.

Hindemith’s Der Tod is a brief and surprisingly beautiful work, revealing his mastery of choral writing, which I had not previously appreciated. It is based on a poetic fragment by Hölderin: “He frightens us, our deliverer, Death. Gently he comes, softly in the clouds of sleep.” I found both the piece and the gorgeous performance by the Flemish Radio Choir deeply moving.

We then move from one of Hindemith’s loveliest musical statements to one of Stravinsky’s most abstract. There are, undoubtedly, more available recordings of the Octet than any other work on this CD, but in a sense I feel it unfair to go into detailed comparison, as here it is used as an emotionally neutral interlude between the deeply moving choral works of Weill and Hindemith on the one side and Milhaud’s pieces on the other. Taken on its own merits, it is a sprightly, well-played performance.

Milhaud’s cantatas of war and peace are the two most recent works on this CD, written in 1940 and 1937, respectively. Based on poems by Paul Claudel, who led the composer to Brazilian dance music, both feature solo female voices and the latter a tenor as well. No orchestra is used in these works; both the rhythms and harmonies of contrasting male and female choirs provide their own countermelodies and sound textures. These are the only recordings of these works I could find; the solo female singers are adequate.

Their creators conceived all of these works as a farewell to the “old Europe” that disappeared for them forever in the rubble of World War I. Even though this CD was recorded in 2007, before the major collapse of world markets, I wonder if Hillier had a similar artistic vision in mind when creating this program. In any event, it is a remarkable and interesting album, well worth your investment in time and money. The sound quality is very spacious and ambient.

FANFARE: Lynn René Bayley
Read less

Works on This Recording

Das Berliner Requiem by Kurt Weill
Performer:  Jakob Bloch Jespersen (Bass), Ivan Goossens (Spoken Vocals)
Conductor:  Paul Hillier
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Flemish Radio Choir,  I Solisti del Vento
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1928; Berlin, Germany 
Vom Tod im Wald, Op. 23 by Kurt Weill
Performer:  Jakob Bloch Jespersen (Bass)
Conductor:  Paul Hillier
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Flemish Radio Choir,  I Solisti del Vento
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1927 
Der Tod by Paul Hindemith
Conductor:  Paul Hillier
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Flemish Radio Choir,  I Solisti del Vento
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1932; Germany 
Octet for Wind Instruments by Igor Stravinsky
Conductor:  Paul Hillier
Orchestra/Ensemble:  I Solisti del Vento
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1923/1952; France 
Cantate de la Paix, Op. 166 by Darius Milhaud
Performer:  Marleen Delputte (Alto)
Conductor:  Paul Hillier
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Flemish Radio Choir,  I Solisti del Vento
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1937 
Cantate de la Guerre, Op. 213 by Darius Milhaud
Performer:  Hilde Venken (Soprano)
Conductor:  Paul Hillier
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Flemish Radio Choir,  I Solisti del Vento
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1940 

Customer Reviews

Be the first to review this title
Review This Title
Review This Title Share on Facebook

Sign up now for two weeks of free access to the world's best classical music collection. Keep listening for only $19.95/month - thousands of classical albums for the price of one! Learn more about ArkivMusic Streaming
Already a subscriber? Sign In