Brahms's 'Deutsches Requiem' ('German Requiem') is surely one of the most-performed large-scale sacred choral works, beloved by professional choruses and orchestras as well as by amateur groups. Audiences never seem to get enough of it, either. This CD contains a slightly different version of the Requiem which is recommendable for two reasons. First, it is, as far as I know, the only modern recording that uses two pianos as accompaniment. Brahms made a four-hand piano arrangement (as he did for almost all his major works) and in this performance that arrangement has been slightly altered to accommodate two pianos, played superlatively by two virtuosi, Brigitte Angerer and Boris Berezovsky. This version is sometimes called the 'London' Requiem, because it was arranged by Brahms for a performance in London with a slimmed-down chorus. The chorus here, a superlatively trained French group called 'Accentus,' led by Laurence Equilbey, does a superior job of interpreting this most serene and genial of all requiems. Accentus has pin-point intonation, something I'd noticed in a couple of previous releases ('Transcriptions' and a Poulenc disc that has a spine-tingling account of 'Figure humaine'). Mme Equilbey and her singers are clearly at the top of their game.
The second reason to recommend this set is that it gives amateur groups who do not have the services of an orchestra a chance to hear how it comes off with piano accompaniment. I can assert that it comes off very well!
This performance also has two very fine soloists. Baritone Stéphane Degout has a ringing voice that well-serves Section III, 'Herr, lehre doch mich,' which also contains that wonderful fugue, here sung with absolute clarity as is the fugue in Section VI. Soprano Sandrine Piau sings a delectable 'Ihr habt nun Traurigkeit.' The full-out choral sections, including everyone's favorite section, 'Wie lieblich sind Deine Wohnungen' ('How lovely are thy dwelling-places'), do not seem to miss having the massive sound of a 120-voice choir; Accentus lists 40 singers, slightly more than the 30 voices Brahms had for his London arrangement.
Only two minor quibbles. Occasionally the choir uses noticeably French-inflected German, not surprising in the circumstances. And in my particular booklet there is a collation error in which the French notes (and the libretto) are repeated and the English left out. A small problem that I suspect is unique to my set only.