Notes and Editorial Reviews
This is a hybrid Super Audio CD playable on both regular and Super Audio CD players.
A German Requiem
Marek Janowski, cond; Camilla Tilling (sop); Detlef Roth (bar); Berlin RSO & Ch
PENTATONE PTC 5186 361 (SACD: 68:37) Live: Berlin 11/2009
There is no applause, but even so, I guessed before reading it on the inlay
card that this is a live recording; it has that pleasant aura of expectation, that electric charge that comes partly from the performers and partly from the audience. PentaTone’s SACD has captured that live ambiance well, and anyone looking for a modern recording of this essential work in which the most recent technology has been used to good advantage need look no further.
Marek Janowski has recorded Brahms’s symphonies, first with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic and then, for PentaTone, with the Pittsburgh Symphony, so his progression to the
is unsurprising and welcome. In my experience, he did not do anything radical with the symphonies, but he made a very satisfactory impression with the integrity and the forward-moving momentum of his interpretations. Such is the case here. Janowski’s reading is neither notably slow nor notably fast. Nevertheless, it
a little on the fast side, given the conductor’s taste for clearly articulated rhythms and clear textures, even when Brahms’s youthful writing tends to be thick. This is not a
to be enjoyed in the afterlife; this one is for those of us left behind who might be a little unsure or anxious about what comes next. In “Ihr habt nun Traurigkeit,” Camilla Tilling seems hopeful that sorrow will be replaced by a joy that no man can take away, but a note of anxiety in her voice suggests that she isn’t quite ready to believe it completely. Compare this to Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, on the Klemperer recording, who seems already to have crossed over to the other side. Likewise, in “Herr, lehre doch mich,” Detlef Roth allows a similarly unsettled emotional quality to enter his singing. Compared to the solid Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau (also for Klemperer), Roth is an uneasy youngster, but there is room for an interpretation of this kind. This is a performance in which faith is present, but it is seldom perfect and unshakable faith. If Janowski denies us heavenly radiance, he also avoids throwing us into the bottomless pit; this performance is stern but not terrifying, and comforting but not anesthetizing.
The relatively youthful sound of the Berlin Radio Choir also adds a note of vulnerability. If quality of choral singing is your first concern, perhaps Robert Shaw (on Telarc) would be a better choice. The Berlin orchestra is capable but not distinctive; I would have preferred to hear what the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra made out of this music instead.
I don’t think anyone will be disappointed with this recording unless they are hoping that it will stand up to classic versions that now are more than four decades old. Janowski knows what he is doing and does it well and without exaggeration, so it is more than satisfying to surrender oneself to him, and to Brahms, for these 68 minutes.
FANFARE: Raymond Tuttle
Works on This Recording
German Requiem, Op. 45 by Johannes Brahms
Camilla Tilling (Soprano),
Detlef Roth (Baritone)
Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra,
Berlin Radio Chorus
Written: 1854-1868; Austria
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