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David Denton
David's Review Corner, October 2009

Rudolf Kempe was known as a ‘musician’s conductor’ who would always draw the very best from his orchestras, his recording of the Brahms Requeim one of the most beautiful on disc . If his career was more often with the good rather than the great orchestras, he had the Berlin Philharmonic in fine form for this 1955 recording and a choir that was well versed in German classics. Its overall timing—not much short of seventy-seven minutes—would speak of a spacious account, but its tread brings an inevitability to its shape. He does not overstate the second movement, with its pounding timpani, but makes a potent impact in the following Herr, lehre doch mich (Lord let me know mine end). The famous Wagnerian soprano, Elisabeth Grummer, was at the height of her career at the time, though her wide vibrato was a matter of taste and does not have the purity we look for nowadays in Ihr habt nun Traurigkeit (And ye now therefore have sorrow). There is also the young Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau making his first of many recordings of the work, and is heard to good effect in the movement leading to Kempe’s fervent closing Selig sind die Toten (Blessed are the dead). The sound quality was not remarkable even when it first appeared and coarsens in loud passages. Reservations, but it has never been out of the list of the most highly recommendable recordings.

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