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David Denton
David's Review Corner, October 2020

The inclusion in the orchestra of an ‘ad libitum’ contrabassoon and organ makes this new release a little different from most of the previously available recordings.

In fact Brahms wrote several versions of the German Requiem during the work’s gestation period that extended over a period of years in the 1860s. With texts based on the Holy Scriptures, it was originally in three ‘movements’ but extended as we now have it, the score having a requirement of soprano and bass soloists. In content it is mainly a solemn musical utterance, the persistent timpani just conveying the felling of death in the second Denn alles Fleisch, es ist wie Gras (For all flesh is like grass), this being the Requiem’s most extended section. Originally Brahms’ conception ended with the baritone solo in Herr, lehre doch mich (Lord, teach me), but eventually growing to seven movements, ended with a hope for eternal life in Selig sind die Toten, die in dem Herrn sterben (Blessed are the dead that die in the Lord). Ralf Otto is one of Europe’s most acclaimed choral conductors, his spread of performances taking in works from the Baroque through to today’s composers. Invited to become conductor of the Bachchor Mainz in 1986, a position he still holds, the high quality of the singing well displayed in this 2019 recording made by the Saarlandischer Rundfunk, the Deutsche Radio Philharmonie a beautifully balanced orchestra. The warm ambiance of the recording is ideal for Brahms, and though there is already a long catalogue of highly acclaimed performances, I commend this new release. © 2020 David’s Review Corner

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