I got this DVD based on the lead reviewer's remarks, and am very glad for that indeed!
The Brahms Requiem is basically a choral work - most of the mass is sung by the chorus, the baritone has just barely two pieces leading the chorus, and the soprano just one solo piece.
It is those type of work that will easily fail to grip the audience should any one part of the performance flags.
Happily, this performance is homogeneously splendid.
Yes, Thielemann conducts from memory, giving the chorus vocal cues. It is truly amazing to see him guiding the ensemble through this massive work. The choir is not exactly large in numbers (compared to the live performance I went to earlier this year), but their performance is outstanding, for under Thielemann's guidance, they respond with detailed and responsive expressivity, some thing not to be taken for granted in a large ensemble.
The orchestra plays beautifully, too, with pristine sound balance of all different departments.
Christian Gerhaher sung the baritone part with great empathy and verbal incisiveness, while Christine Schafer is an awesome soloist in the soprano part.
It is a big surprise that this recording was of a live performance as early as April 2007, and still so 'little' known!