ESSENTIAL RECORDINGS
JOHANNES BRAHMS - A German Requiem


JOHANNES BRAHMS - A German Requiem - Sally Matthews (Soprano) - Christopher Maltman (Baritone) - London Symphony Orchestra and Chorus - Valery Gergiev (Conductor) - 822231174820 - Released: May 2014 - LSO Live LSO0748

It's hard to imagine a more portentous line-up for the Johannes Brahms Requiem than the forces assembled here. A promising pair of soloists, the London Symphony and Chorus and, above all, Valery Gergiev, the podium's superstar of the moment. And indeed this recording has much to recommend it. The LSO sound is immaculate and its players are up to satisfying every interpretive nuance the conductor requires of them. The chorus is solid and beautifully balanced and is especially pleasing in the fourth movement, Wie lieblich sind deine Wohnungen.

Baritone Christopher Maltman is entirely effective in Herr, lehre doch mich, but even better in Denn wir haben nie keine bleibende Statt. In both movements his voice floats above the orchestra and chorus, giving the text its full due. However, soprano Sally Matthews' vibrato is too intense, compromising the consoling intent of the words she sings.

If there is one other problem, it would be the tempo of the funeral march, Denn alles Fleisch es ist wie Gras. It's too slow, more of a dirge than a march. Perhaps it could be argued that what is needed is reflection more than drama, and Gergiev's interpretation does grow on you with repeated hearings; but it is definitely far from the common practice for this movement.

Richard Todd - May 2014