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Brahms: Alto Rhapsody [Import]

Giuseppe Sinopoli Audio CD
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
Price: £9.74 & FREE Delivery in the UK on orders over £10. Details
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Product details

  • Composer: Johannes Brahms
  • Audio CD (26 Mar 1997)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Format: Import
  • Label: Deutsche Grammophon
  • ASIN: B00000E51S
  • Other Editions: MP3 Download
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 114,798 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Listen to Samples and Buy MP3s

Songs from this album are available to purchase as MP3s. Click on "Buy MP3" or view the MP3 Album.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         

Samples
Song TitleArtist Time Price
Listen  1. Brahms: Rhapsody for Alto, Chorus, and Orchestra, Op.53 - "Aber abseits wer ist's?" Adagio-Poco Andante-AdagioBrigitte Fassbaender14:28Album Only
Listen  2. Brahms: Schicksalslied, Op.54 - Ihr wandelt droben im LichtCzech Philharmonic Orchestra16:36Album Only
Listen  3. Brahms: Triumphlied Op.55 - 1. Halleluja! Heil und PreisCzech Philharmonic Orchestra 7:36£0.79  Buy MP3 
Listen  4. Brahms: Triumphlied Op.55 - 2. Lobet unsern GottCzech Philharmonic Orchestra 8:26£0.79  Buy MP3 
Listen  5. Brahms: Triumphlied Op.55 - 3. Und ich sah den Himmel aufgetanWolfgang Brendel 7:43£0.79  Buy MP3 
Listen  6. Brahms: Nänie von Friedrich Schiller, für Chor und Orchester, Op.82 - Auch das Schöne muß sterben!Czech Philharmonic Orchestra14:11Album Only


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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars UNSUNG BUT FAR FROM ORDINARY 7 Feb 2005
By DAVID BRYSON TOP 500 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Audio CD
'The ordinary goes down unsung to Orcus' are the last words of Schiller's Naenie. Brahms's Naenie is sung very rarely, and his Triumphlied hardly ever, in my experience. Following shortly on the Requiem, Brahms turned out Rinaldo, the Alto Rhapsody, the Song of Destiny and the Triumphlied one after another, followed after a longer interval by Naenie and the Song of the Fates. The Alto Rhapsody has become an established favourite, but the uneconomic format of the others, calling for chorus, and in the Triumphlied a soloist also, as well as the orchestra in shortish pieces, tends to keep them out of the repertory.
I already own the marvellous performance that Sinopoli gave of Rinaldo with Kollo as soloist, and I was keen to add whatever else he might have done by way of the shorter Brahms choral pieces, particularly as I had no record of the Triumphlied at all. In some ways the disc is really superlative, and that makes it all the greater pity that the recording doesn't do it full justice. The volume-level is rather low, but that is no problem on its own. What the recorded sound lacks here is fullness, body, bloom, that sort of thing, in music that is crying out for it. I own an ancient LP containing the Song of Destiny and Naenie done by the Suisse Romande (hardly the world's greatest orchestra) under Ansermet. The recording is not new either, but the swooping-and-rising violin phrase in the prelude to the Song of Destiny is sumptuous and gorgeous, far more effectively captured than here. Naenie ('threnody') is a work that comes close to being obscenely beautiful, and the great full-throated effect in the last stanza comes over not too badly here, but again it is probably no better than on the LP, if indeed as good.
In general this an exasperating curate's-egg of an issue.
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Amazon.com: 4.3 out of 5 stars  3 reviews
14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars UNSUNG BUT FAR FROM ORDINARY In memoriam BZ. 7 Feb 2005
By DAVID BRYSON - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD|Verified Purchase
'The ordinary goes down unsung to Orcus' are the last words of Schiller's Naenie. Brahms's Naenie is sung very rarely, and his Triumphlied hardly ever, in my experience. Following shortly on the Requiem, Brahms turned out Rinaldo, the Alto Rhapsody, the Song of Destiny and the Triumphlied one after another, followed after a longer interval by Naenie and the Song of the Fates. The Alto Rhapsody has become an established favourite, but the uneconomic format of the others, calling for chorus, and in the Triumphlied and Rinaldo a soloist also, as well as the orchestra in shortish pieces, tends to keep them out of the repertory.

I already own the marvellous performance that Sinopoli gave of Rinaldo with Kollo as soloist, and I was keen to add whatever else he might have done by way of the shorter Brahms choral pieces, particularly as I had no record of the Triumphlied at all. In some ways the disc is really superlative, and that makes it all the greater pity that the recording doesn't do it full justice. The volume-level is rather low, but that is no problem on its own. What the recorded sound lacks here is fullness, body, bloom, that sort of thing, in music that is crying out for it. I own an ancient LP containing the Song of Destiny and Naenie done by the Suisse Romande (hardly the world's greatest orchestra) under Ansermet. The recording is not new either, but the swooping-and-rising violin phrase in the prelude to the Song of Destiny is sumptuous and gorgeous, far more effectively captured than here. Naenie (`threnody') is a work that comes close to being obscenely beautiful, and the great full-throated effect in the last stanza comes over not too badly here, but again it is probably no better than on the LP, if indeed as good.

In general this an exasperating curate's-egg of an issue. Much of the orchestral work, and all of the conducting without exception, seem to me absolutely outstanding. In particular I would draw attention to some superb high-speed precision work from the violins in the Triumphlied and to the superlative handling of the transition from the second to the third stanza of the Alto Rhapsody. I have a hunch that the drum-beat at the start of the Song of Destiny was probably of the same order, but I have to suspend judgment about that on account of the recording. There is a real sense of `quality' about the orchestral playing, both in phrasing and in tone, and as I found the same in Sinopoli's recordings of Rinaldo and the Mahler 8th with other orchestras I am sure he deserves much of the credit for that. His choice of tempi had me convinced from start to finish too, and the second stanza of the Song of Destiny in particular struck me as outstandingly successful, with a really magnificent `von Klippe zu Klippe'. As regards the singing, Wolfgang Brendel does very well in the Triumphlied. So, really, does Fassbaender in the Alto Rhapsody, but I have heard her vocal quality come across more seductively than it manages to here. The chorus gave me a couple of slightly uneasy moments, whether or not that again was down at least partly to the recording, but in general they acquit themselves at least adequately and they manage to sound properly formidable in the Song of Destiny and the Triumphlied.

Texts are translated into English and French, and the liner-note is given in no fewer than five languages. Under the circumstances I would have liked it to be a great deal better than it is. In general it consists too much of glimpses of the obvious and of points that are neither here nor there. There is, in particular, a well-known issue regarding the composer's intention in the Song of Destiny, and the writer fumbles with that. The first section is in one key and consists of a prelude and a choral section to a text about the remote felicity of the gods. The second section is in a different key, and relates to the wretched lot of humanity. There the poet, Hoelderlin, leaves matters. The liner-note writer very properly quotes letters by Brahms expressing a need to say more. What we need is some proper thought about what this might have been. Brahms follows the gloomy second stanza with a re-scored version of the serene prelude, significantly lacking its firm opening drum-beat, but in the `human' key, as Tovey acutely points out, not the `gods' key. Does Brahms mean to express faith (not if I know him), or hope (not his forte either)? To me it is a message of consolation, like some of the texts in the Requiem only this time not biblical, indeed not to words at all. Behind the suffering there is exaltation.

I think I had better make some sense of the remarks on Schiller's Naenie too. On the sleeve of my LP this is described as a sonnet. It is 14 lines long (the print-layout seems to have been designed to obscure this as much as possible) but unrhymed, so it can hardly be that. What the liner-note is trying to say is that the verse form is the classical `elegiac couplet', and confuses this with elegiac sentiment which is nothing to do with the verse form. What an extraordinary and marvellous poem it is too.

My own special trophy here is the Triumphlied, to texts from the Apocalypse and celebrating the victory of Germany in the Franco-Prussian war. Brahms studied Handel as well as Bach, indeed his choral writing seems to me the best since Handel's own. Brahms is not afraid to tread where such mighty feet have trodden before him, but characteristically he makes a gesture, or more than one, of deference to his great predecessor. To my mind, and I believe to his own despite his ironical manner, he needs fear comparison with nobody. I would not call Brahms's Triumphlied quite the equal of Handel's Dettingen Te Deum, but the occasion it celebrates is altogether more significant. Handel's great masterpiece has now been restored to reflect his true intentions, and nobody listening to it gives a passing thought to the satirical monarch and the Gilbertian victory that gave rise to it. Memories are still raw as regards the long-term consequences of Bismarck, but in political terms Brahms is not suspect and his Triumphlied needs restoring to the repertory.

[Edit to dedicate this short commentary on the music of human mortality to the memory of Bob Zeidler, died 2 April 2005 aged 66 years].
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing! 21 Sep 2011
By Giordano Bruno - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD|Verified Purchase
Johannes Brahms (1833-1897) was the greatest composer of the mid-19th Century!

What's amazing is that there are otherwise sane people who would dispute that judgment. Now, it's true that Brahms never wrote an opera. Given the prevalent musical manner of operas during his lifetime, perhaps we should be thankful. It's also true that he was not especially prolific, composing only four symphonies, a handful of string quartets/quintets/sextets, four concerti, and only one truly monumental work for chorus and orchestra, his German Requiem. But then he also wrote a plethora of Lieder, part songs, and smaller scale choral works, many of which are all too seldom performed and all too often amateurishly recorded. Honestly, Brahms would be a candidate for "the most poorly recorded great composer of all time", were it not that Bach has that trophy in the bag.

I recently wrote a harsh review of an older Brahms CD, conducted by Helmut Rilling, which included the same Alt-Rhapsodie op.53 as this 1983 recording by the Czech Philharmonic, Giuseppe Sinopoli conducting. The Rilling performance featured alto Lioba Braun, whose singing was so awful that I decided I needed to hear another interpretation as soon as possible, to cleanse my ears. I'm very happy to report that alto Brigitte Fassbänder sings this sardonic text by Goethe with gorgeous technique and affect. The Rilling CD also offered a blunt stab at the unfinished oratorio Rinaldo. This re-release of Sinopoli includes different but comparable triumphal music - the three Songs of Triumph, on texts from the Revelations of John - sung by baritone Wolfgang Brendel, plus a setting of Freidrich Hölderlin's dour, dire poem Schiksalslied (Song of Destiny). Brendel has all the voice and about 85% of the technique of a grand romantic-era era, but the musical thrills of these works come chiefly from the orchestra. The recording is filled out with one of Brahms's indisputable masterworks, the choral setting of Friedrich von Schiller's elegy for Beauty titled "Nänie". The voices of the Prague Philharmonic Chorus are well tuned, well balance, well disciplined by Sinopoli, and the result is a suave and consolatory an interpretation of Nänie as any I've ever heard. Of course, the sound recording of any large chorus was challenging in 1983, and is still challenging today. But I confess, I didn't expect this recording to be as good as it is.
1 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Well played, but some extreme tempo choices mar this collection. 14 Jun 2009
By Some Guy from Ohio - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
The Alto Rhapsody is 16% slower than Klemperer's. The Schicksalslied is 14% slower than Walter's. Neither of those conductors were known for their fast tempos.

This CD is well played and recorded, but Sinopoli's tempo choices detract significantly from what would otherwise have been an enjoyable collection.

I realize the Alto Rhapsody is marked Adagio - Andante - Adagio, but there still needs to be some forward motion. The piece should be full of drama, not a static stroll through the countryside.

I just bought this CD, so perhaps Sinopoli's glacial approach will grow on me, if I bother to take this CD off the shelf and listen to it again.
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