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  • Brahms: Choral Music (Alto Rhapsody) (Naxos: 8.572694)
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Brahms: Choral Music (Alto Rhapsody) (Naxos: 8.572694) CD

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Antoni Wit, one of the most highly regarded Polish conductors, studied conducting with Henryk Czyz and composition with Krzysztof Penderecki at the Academy of Music in Kraków, subsequently continuing his studies with Nadia Boulanger in Paris. He also graduated in law at the Jagiellonian University in Kraków. Immediately after completing his studies he was engaged as an assistant ... Read more in Amazon's Antoni Wit Store

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Product details

  • Conductor: Antoni Wit
  • Composer: Johannes Brahms
  • Audio CD (3 Jan. 2012)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Format: CD
  • Label: Naxos
  • ASIN: B006BBVMC2
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 221,302 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.

Song TitleArtist Time Price
Listen  1. Ave Maria, Op. 12Warsaw Philharmonic Choir 4:46£0.99  Buy MP3 
Listen  2. Begrabnisgesang, Op. 13Warsaw Philharmonic Choir 8:44Album Only
Listen  3. Alto Rhapsody, Op. 53Ewa Wolak14:43Album Only
Listen  4. Schicksalslied, Op. 54Warsaw Philharmonic Choir17:48Album Only
Listen  5. Nanie, Op. 82Warsaw Philharmonic Choir13:34Album Only
Listen  6. Gesang der Parzen, Op. 89Warsaw Philharmonic Choir 9:37Album Only

Product Description

CD Description

Brahms's first connection with choral music came in 1857, and his first appointment in Vienna, in 1863, was to conduct the Singakademie. He premièred A German Requiem in the city and wrote widely for choral forces, taking a variety of poetic source material. Begräbnisgesang (Funeral Hymn) evinces a great feeling of solemnity, whilst Schicksalslied (Song of Destiny) is an urgent, volatile work. Nänie was written as a lament for the death of the painter Anselm Feuerbach, and the Alto Rhapsody has remained one of the greatest works for contralto in the repertoire.


An anthology of all Brahms's shorter choral-orchestral works is a welcome thing, especially in performances as sterling as these. Performance **** Recording **** --BBC Music Magazine,Feb'12

Antonio Wit is proving to be one of Naxos's greatest assets, a conductor of strong personality who puts musical values first, yet can readily create both drama and spontinaeity in the recording studio. Moreover, Ewa Wolak is a rich-toned contralto, without a hint of a wobble, who can evoke exactly the kind of lyrical drama which the lovely Alto Rhapsody commands...This super-budget collection is marvellously sung and played. --Gramophone,Mar'12

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

By annie on 1 Dec. 2014
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
An very good selection of some of Brahms choral music.
Wonderful soloist.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 2 reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
A New Recording of Brahms Choral Music 16 Feb. 2012
By Robin Friedman - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Although Brahms conducted choirs and wrote choral music all his life, much of this work is not often performed live, with the exception of the German Requiem. Most of these short pieces have been frequently recorded, and this Naxos new recording of six Brahms works for chorus and orchestra offers an excellent introduction. The distinguished conductor Antoni Wit conducts the Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra with preparation of the Warsaw Philharmonic Chorus by its longstanding director, Henryk Wojnarowski.

The six works range from early to late in Brahms' career. His style is apparent in them all. The works are serious and somber in character. This music is melodic but it is difficult to perform and requires concentration and repeated listening to appreciate. The performances by Wit and the Orchestra and Chorus are disciplined, controled and carefully rehearsed. This is a necessity for this music. Much as I love it, most of these works do not work well for amateur music-making. They also are not suitable for casual listening.

The most famous work on this CD, and the only one which uses is a soloist, is the Alto Rhapsody, opus 53, composed in 1869 and possibly autobiographical as Brahms was reflecting on a failed romance. There are many fabled recordings of this work, but I found contralto Ewa Wolak's performance here worthy and deeply moving. The text is three stanzas of a poem by Goethe, and Brahms' music works differently for each stanza. It moves from recitive to a passionate aria with long leaps in the vocal line to a concluding consolatory stanza with the soloist accompanied by a male chorus. Tempos vary substantially in performances of the Alto Rhapsody, and the reading here at 14:51 is on the slow side of the spectrum.

Of the purely choral works, Nanie, opus 82 is one of the most beautiful and least often performed due to its difficulty. Composed in 1881, Brahms set a poem by Schiller which celebrates the evanescent character of beauty. Brahms wrote the work for the death of a friend, the painter Anslem Feurerbach, one of whose works is on the CD cover. It is a work of almost unearthly beauty, peace and serenity in which music and text closely reinforce each other.

Written one year after Nanie, the Song of Fate, opus 89, is of an entirely different character. Setting a poem of Goethe's, this is a short, stormy jagged work which deals with the passing of human life by emphsizing its capricious, chancy and seemingly arbitrary character.

The Song of Destiny (Fate), opus 54, composed in 1871 to a poem by Holderlin also offers an apparently pessimistic view of human destiny. This is a heavily orchestrated work and as do many of the pieces included here makes great use of the tympani. The work begins quietly but reaches a loud and repeated anguished climax on a large chord in its middle section before fading away in resignation. This is a difficult piece and ambiguous in its portrayal of the human condition.

The remaining two works on the CD are early compositions and rather more lyrical and accessible than their companions. Brahms short and lilting setting of the Ave Maria, opus 12, dates from 1859. In that year, Brahms also composed his Funeral Hymnn, opus 13 to commemorate the death of Robert Schumann, This is a march-like piece, scored for lower winds without strings that was composed to be performed at gravesite. The work has the archaic feel of early music.

Keith Anderson wrote the liner notes for the CD and prepared the English translations of the texts. It has become a welcome rarity to see texts and translations. This CD is an excellent and welcome reading of Brahms' choral masterworks.

Total Time: 69:54

Robin Friedman
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Johannes Brahms and company 13 Feb. 2012
By Jim D. - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
Most classical listeners will know Brahms for the great German Requiem, but he wrote for many combinations of voices and instruments; this disc features half a dozen of his shorter works for mixed chorus with full orchestral accompaniment. The selections tend to be on the somber side--the works with piano are often lighter--although an "Ave Maria" for women and orchestra is lilting and folk-like. Ewa Wolak takes the solo part in the famous Alto Rhapsody, confidently negotiating the wide intervals, and sounding at times a little like Janet Baker. I've always had a soft spot for "Nanie," with its elegant, almost languid fugal introduction. By contrast, the opening of "The Song of the Fates," which follows, is slashing and dramatic. Conductor Antoni Wit guides the assembled forces, getting some lovely soft singing from the big group. And--for once!--the booklet has all the texts, in both the original (mostly) German, and English translation.
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