Customer Review

10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Underwhelming, 6 Nov 2009
This review is from: Brahms: Ein Deutsches Requiem (Audio CD)
I was prepared to like this Brahms Requiem but have to part company with the previous reviewer: "stodgy" is exactly what this version is. It never manages to progress beyond an over-reverential, all-purpose melancholy which fails to acknowledge those moments when Brahms' quiet, dignified expression of grief is transfigured by a grand and noble determination to outface and rise above the debilitating effects of loss. At times the music must pick up and surge forward and I found myself yelling "Get on with it!" when Rattle doggedly sticks to a plodding jog-trot, particularly in the triumphant anthem following the outburst "Aber, des Herrn Wort" and in the great fugue in the penultimate movement. Orchestra and choir are as good as you might expect from Berlin but they are undermined by Rattle's timid literalism, and the soloists are just plain disappointing compared with more illustrious predecessors. I don't know what has happened to the normally impressive Thomas Quasthoff, but here he is definitely either out of sorts or his voice is beginning to evince disturbing signs of premature wear: the vibrato is too wide, production rocky and his tone sometimes blares. Just compare him with José van Dam in Karajan's 1983 account - actually, there is no comparison; van Dam is infinitely more alluring, more moving - and more subtle. Similarly, Dorothea Röschmann's pleasant, slightly thin voice pales into insignificance against the pure, soaring, angelic sopranos of Gundula Janowitz or Barbara Hendricks. There is not enough light and shade in this performance and it remains stubbornly earthbound; for the real deal in great sound seek out any of Karajan's three accounts, particularly that 1983 recording with the Vienna forces in superb form.
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Showing 1-10 of 17 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 15 Dec 2009 10:42:21 GMT
Last edited by the author on 15 Dec 2009 12:40:14 GMT
Pereira says:
I have not heard this recording but having purchased the Brahms symphonies by Rattle and I know exactly what you mean by 'get on with it'. Yes Rattle is determined to be retro. as if this were fertile ground for discovery or interpretation. However, I did like the Schubert 9. No lack of forward momentum there.

In reply to an earlier post on 15 Dec 2009 18:23:24 GMT
Last edited by the author on 15 Dec 2009 18:24:00 GMT
Ralph Moore says:
A trusted reviewer friend, the Santa Fe listener, on writes very approvingly of Rattle's Brahms symphonies. I haven't yet heard them but I know I prefer the Toscanini approach to them :
Symphonies Nos. 1 And 2 (Toscanini, NBC So)
and also very happy with the Abbado set. I also enjoy very much Karajan's 1987 live First on Testament:
Symphony No. 1/Verklarte Nacht (Von Karajan)

A good Schubert 9 can be hard to find; I'll look out for it.

In reply to an earlier post on 17 Dec 2009 13:50:25 GMT
Pereira says:
Schubert 9- Bruno Walter 1939, 1959. Both excellent in their different ways. He's the only conductor I have heard who can ' balance out' the first movement.

In reply to an earlier post on 31 Dec 2009 14:29:20 GMT
Adamos says:
The Schubert 9 I'm waiting for is Barbirolli's: an extraordinary reading in which the scherzo becomes almost a waltz. I also liked Rattle's account. Rattle's Brahms' Symphonies, which I finally got round to this Christmas, leaves me with mixed feelings, though I like it better than (for me) the rather too silky-smooth and Karajanised Abbado set - the Berlin Phil was still Karajan's orchestra and I wish Abbado had waited to record them. I have to say that I like Rattle's German Requiem rather more than either of you, though I would agree that it is safe rather than probing. An extra star? Also I wonder what either reviewer makes of Abbado's Schubert 9 with the COE?

In reply to an earlier post on 1 Jan 2010 20:38:51 GMT
Last edited by the author on 4 Mar 2010 22:38:42 GMT
Ralph Moore says:
I don't know either the Barbirolli or the Walter or the Abbado recordings, having always made do with the Szell. I'll start looking and get back to you. Is the Barbirolli with the Hallé? There's this one,
which is the later EMI stereo version:
The Barbirolli Viennese Album

I've ordered it!

PS and now reviewed it - and very good indeed it is.

In reply to an earlier post on 4 Mar 2010 12:14:55 GMT
For Schubert 9, Boult live at the Proms in 1969 on BBC Music is well worth a try - not quite as electric as another private live recording I have from the following year (recorded for TV), but still mightily exciting and riveting.

In reply to an earlier post on 18 Apr 2012 15:36:28 BDT
Bacchus says:
I have recently listened to and reviewed this recording and was interested in your comments. I largely enjoyed it and found it flowing rather than plodding but like all performances of this work (especially), I did have some misgivings, some of which you highlighted in a slightly different way to me.

Re Barbirolli's Schubert 9, I too like it very much and have acquired 3 different LP recordings of it. The last I picked up for 33p in a charity shop and discovered that a name scrawled on the back of the sleeve in huge letters was in fact John Barbirolli's autograph!

In reply to an earlier post on 18 Apr 2012 18:02:48 BDT
Last edited by the author on 18 Apr 2012 18:03:05 BDT
Ralph Moore says:
Yes; of course it's possible to respond very differently despite hearing much the same thing.

What a satisfying find that Barbirolli LP is. I'm afraid I gave all my LPs away - lack of space and, to be honest, no real conviction that it's really worth listening to them. since CDs arrived.

Posted on 22 Dec 2013 21:49:55 GMT
[Deleted by the author on 30 Dec 2013 11:19:13 GMT]

In reply to an earlier post on 22 Dec 2013 22:24:26 GMT
Ralph Moore says:
My pleasure, Linda; I don't think you can go wrong with that Karajan recording. Do let me know your thoughts on it.

I, too, was a regular at Rattle's CBSO concerts in the 90's and found him considerably more exciting than I do today, although I thought he wasted a lot of time on trendy programming and neglected the classic repertoire; I know admirers of the BPO who are enraged by his effect upon their sound and in truth his tenure has hardly been triumphant.
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