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Penguin Guide, January 2009

In January 1943, at the height of the Second World War, Toscanini conducted his performance of the Brahms Requiem in New York, understandably choosing an English text rather than German. As one would expect, it is high-powered, starting with a refreshing, urgent account of the opening Beatitude setting, Blessed are they. After that the next movement, Behold, all flesh is as the grass, is very broad indeed, prevented from sounding sluggish only by Toscanini’s high-voltage intensity, which equally sustains the other movements. Herbert Janssen as the baritone soloist, dramatic and clean-cut, provides Lieder-like detail. Viviane della Chiesa is the fresh, creamy-toned soprano in the fourth movement, and the Westminster Choir adds to the drama, even though backwardly balanced. Limited mono sound, less harsh than may commercial NBC recordings of the period.

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