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Calum MacDonald
BBC Music Magazine, January 2012

Thielemann’s tempos are stately but never drag—the waltz-rhythms in ‘Wie lieblich sind deine Wohnunge’ are delightful—and he has infused his performers with passion. The quite small Bavarian Radio Choir are extremely clear in their choral textures, the orchestra are on top-notch form. © 2012 BBC Music Magazine Read complete review

Paul L Althouse
American Record Guide, March 2011

Both Schäfer and Gerhaher sing with beauty of tone and a deep understanding of Brahms’s message. The chorus, which numbers about 80, is very well trained and sings with a similar understanding and sensitivity. The Munich Philharmonic is a very fine ensemble.

To read the complete review, please visit American Record Guide online.

Paul Orgel
Fanfare, March 2011

Watching Christian Thielemann conduct Brahms’s Requiem is a little like watching Karajan conduct the work. He presides, eagle-eyed, batonless, physically nearly inactive much of the time, but generating lots of intensity. The rich Bavarian Radio Chorus, using scores, and the Munich Philharmonic, which recorded the work with Celibidache, dig into the music with real commitment. With its emphatic bass lines, weighty, measured pace, and powerful dynamic range, this performance is not as gently consoling as some. The Requiem’s undercurrent of grief is felt. In Thielemann’s hands, a musical connection between the slowly insistent pulsing that opens the first and sixth movements and the sinister tread of Parsifal’s grail knights does not seem far-fetched.

The logic of the Requiem’s sequence of movements is well showcased in Thielemann’s reading. The first movement’s introspective searching is balanced by the same qualities in the seventh (final) movement. (In this performance, the audience was requested to not applaud at the end so as to not break the meditative mood.) The second movement’s mystery and vigor find their counterpart in the sixth. Surrounding the brief, tranquil fifth movement, “Wie lieblich sind deine Wohnungen,” are the movements featuring the baritone and soprano. They are convincingly analyzed in an essay by Michael Steinberg in the indispensable volume The Compleat Brahms as being symbolically representative of Schumann, Brahms’s musical father, and Christiane, his mother, whose deaths motivated Brahms to compose the Requiem. Under pressure to add a movement whose text would include a direct reference to Christ, Brahms added the fifth movement two years after the rest of the secularly titled German Requiem was complete. According to Harald Reiter’s notes, Brahms told the choirmaster of the Bremen Cathedral that he would have preferred to call the work “A Human Requiem.”

The soloists are splendid. I am increasingly impressed by the baritone Christian Gerhaher, who has emerged as one of the outstanding German baritones of his generation. His range and timbre are perfectly suited to the Requiem’s extensive solos, and his ability to sing legato is comparable to Fischer-Dieskau’s in Klemperer’s classic EMI recording. (Hans Hotter’s more dramatic performance with Karajan from 1947 is even more compelling.) The soprano solo is effortlessly sung by Christine Schäfer with the requisite pure, radiant tone. A wonderful singer, though not the most dramatic presence, she is more in her element here than as Sophie or Gretel in recent Met performances.

This is a moving performance whose gravity doesn’t impede the music’s flow. Highly recommended.

Robert Cummings
Classical Net, December 2010

Thielemann’s recording has an extra two minutes or so added in for opening and closing credits and, because it’s a live performance, it allows for more time between the seven movements. Thielemann is far broader in his approach, but, as we will see, he makes a good case for his more deliberate rendition.

Thielemann’s sonics are clear and powerful, fairly standard for a recorded concert on DVD.

Thielemann, who doesn’t read from a score during this live performance, blends the textures of the work in a more traditional and quite convincing way, in the end offering a rather epic view of the work. Thielemann is bigger and comes across with more impact and drama. Thielemann deftly imparts tension and powerful emotions, never letting things flag.

Both his Christine Schäfer and Janowski’s Camilla Tilling have attractive voices, but the latter, with her angelic sound, has more vibrato and a bit less intensity. Orchestras perform well enough.

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