Brahms Ein deutsches Requiem has always been met with a mixture of acclaim and criticism; while it is almost universally acclaimed as a masterwork of the choral genre, music critics of Brahms’ day decried the fact that it wasn’t a truly liturgical mass in the classic sense. Composed in the aftermath of the deaths of Robert Schumann and Brahms’ own mother, the mass is less a ritual liturgical ceremony for the dead than it is a celebration of comfort for the souls of the recently departed and those who mourn them – a message of peace whose relevance is not lost on modern audiences.
This disc represents Telarc’s third recording of this monumental work, and the second by the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra (Telarc CD-80092). The ASO first recorded the work for Telarc under the baton of the late maestro Robert Shaw, who was particularly enamored with Brahms choral masterpiece. He worked diligently on an English translation in hopes of recording it as a companion to the German version, but he died before that came to fruition. Telarc did eventually record his English translation with the Utah Symphony and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir (Telarc CD-80501), conducted by Craig Jessup, who was a longtime associate of Robert Shaw. That recording was met with mixed criticism, especially those voices who felt the English translation was not particularly in keeping with Brahms’ original vision, and that the singing just didn’t flow as well from a diction standpoint as the original.
ASO music director Robert Spano shows his affinity with the choral oeuvre in this magnificently realized recording of Brahms’ German manuscript. From the opening notes of the rapturously beautiful “Selig sind, die da Lied tragen” (Blest Are They That Mourn), you are fully immersed in the tranquility of Brahms’ message of acceptance of the inevitable. Michael Bishop and all at Telarc have done a magnificent job – as usual – with overcoming any obstacles present in Atlanta’s less-than-acoustically perfect Symphony Hall. The multichannel mix – which is the only way to fully experience the immersive quality of this masterpiece – is nothing short of perfection, and fully negates any of the Atlanta facility’s shortcomings. The ASO choir, also as usual, is equally brilliant; somewhere in the afterlife, Robert Shaw must be smiling!
Even though I sprachen very little German, Johannes Brahms’ denotation here is quite clear to me. I don’t see how anyone who has suffered a loss could not be moved by the serenity of this glorious music. Very highly recommended!
— Tom Gibbs