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4.5 out of 5 stars
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4.5 out of 5 stars
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VINE VOICEon 16 March 2007
I'm not sure I've ever heard the Deutsches Requiem sound more Brahmsian. That may seem an odd remark, but many recordings make of it a sui generis piece, living in a funerary world of its own. But I hear in this performance from Rattle and the Berliners direct lines into the symphonies and the concertos that I'm seldom so conscious of with other performers. It's there in the melodic and rhythmic phrasing, in the orchestral textures, especially of the woodwind, and in the integration of choir and orchestra.

Like his recent Schubert Great C Major, this is in many ways an old fashioned performance. Tempi are broader than we get from more `authentic' modernists like John Eliot Gardiner, Roger Norrington and the like, textures are richer and warmer, it comes through as an altogether grander work. Brahms determined to write a very untraditional Requiem, not just in his choice of texts but in his focus on the bereaved who are left behind rather than the traditional prayers for the dead themselves. It was, after all, written soon after his mother's death and the central movement, `Ihr habt nun Traurigkeit', is a tender and moving memorial to her. Rattle reflects this humanity in his performance: it is perhaps the most humanist German Requiem since Kempe's wonderful performance with the same orchestra.

I don't want to leave the impression that this is an over-sombre, stodgy performance, though. Far from it. Those moments when the clouds clear and the sun comes out and the music starts to stir with life, movement and liveliness suit Rattle's ability to lift and energise a rhythm well. The fourth movement becomes almost a lilting waltz at times, a heavenly dance if you like. The big fugal passages with their strong undertow of typical Brahmsian pedal points have great energy and thrust. Even the imposing, deliberate tread of the `Alles Fleisch' funeral march always retains focus and purpose.

The performers are an impressive lot. The orchestra again shows itself to be in the very front rank, investing textures with colour and shape, phrasing solos with individuality while remaining consistent with the whole. The choir are exceptional: this is glorious, wonderfully disciplined choral singing. Roschmann is an ideally tender soprano soloist in that central, consolatory movement. Quastoff is eloquent as always, but do I detect just the first signs of wear and tear in the voice creeping in? Is there just a tad more spread to the tone when it's put under pressure than there used to be? It is nevertheless a fine performance. Perhaps neither soloist quite lives up to the perfect ethereal beauty of Grummer or the drama of Fischer-Dieskau on the Kempe recording, but they are certainly good enough to see off most of their modern rivals.

As a performance, the Kempe remains something very special. Among modern recordings, this new one is up there with the very best. Gardiner is worth exploring for a refreshingly brisker cleaner view: but for a more traditional take on the work this new Berlin performance is well worth hearing.
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on 5 August 2011
Rattle is going back to a very classical ideal in this recording, it's reminding me of the Klemperer recording. In times where the "authentic" sound is the aim in many recordings, this is not aiming for that. Here is a classical balance and a natural flow.

Rundfunkchor Berlin is singing with an outstanding perfection where every syllable is heard. Berliner Philharmoniker is the perfect orchestra for this with it's classical heritage.
Among the soloists I would like to mention Quasthoff, his voice is carrying the message right to the heart.
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on 15 January 2013
I first heard a track from this particular recording on Classic FM, and it took me ages to track it down. The Berlin Phil and Simon Rattle make this an absolute must have recording of the German Requiem to have in your collection. It's certainly my favourite.
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on 1 February 2013
I bought this version after reading lots of reviews. It is a work I love and have sung a number of times. This performance really does the work justice and brings out the profound emotions of the work, both in the quiet sensitive passages and in the powerful climaxes. Highly recommended.
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on 21 November 2012
A truly uplifting recording of one of Brahms' most outstanding compositions. A proper requiem for the comfort of the bereaved, and Rattle does it justice with a terrific ensemble underpinned by some great recording engineering. If you only ever buy one recording of this, this is worth serious consideration.
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I am a bit of a hot and cold admirer of Brahms's German Requiem. It has its moments of excitement which in the wrong hands can become stodgy and other moments of sheer rapture that in the wrong hands can sound a bit saccharine. There are bits that can sound well, boring.

I have not heard every recording of this work (who has?), including the Klemperer recording which many regard as the touchstone recording. However, I have three other recordings (Gardiner, Kempe and Ansermet) with which to make a comparison with Rattle's recording.

To start with positives. I think that Rattle gave the work a wonderfully flowing performance. I do not find it at all stodgy. I think that the tempi chosen are sound. Overall, he takes just two minutes longer than Gardiner and on some movements, he is swifter. The performance also reveals plenty of fascinating orchestral details I did not hear in other recordings. So many times in the recording, I was truly transported by the gorgeous noises emanating from my loudspeakers. The choir too, produce an excellent sound. They make it sound so easy (and believe me, it is not an easy sing). I don't think that the singers themselves are quite as good as the ones Gardiner has in the Monteverdi Choir but that is a minor quibble. I like also Thomas Quastoff's solo passages. His diction is superb and I like the quality of his voice. It is a performance which is cool rather than emotional and dramatic but this is not necessarily a criticism.

However, I did tend to find that the overall performance was rather cool at times and I did feel that the search for a flowing style did rob the dramatic bits of a bit of Old Testament fury. I also had some issues with Dorothea Roshmann's soprano solo. She performs well but I found the voice a little fluttery and I have heard it sung better.

The problem for me with this work is the last movement. I do find it can sound a bit boring. There is a danger that the work can rather lose impetus. There are ways to make it sound more muscular to prevent it sounding too mushy. I think Gardiner tried to make more of the inner notes but for me, it tended to make me feel a little seasick. I think the Simon Rattle attempts something similar and does it a lot better although I still felt vaguely let down at the end. I think of the recordings I have heard, Ansermet seemed to get the balance right here.

However, I don't think anyone should be put off this fine recording. I think that it is better than most and has many unique exquisite moments. I just don't think it answers every point.
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on 24 February 2014
There's been an unfortunate tendency in recent years to pull Brahms back into the puritanical vacuum of original-instrument 'authenticity'. This does Brahms no favours (as it happens it does Bach no favours either, but I guess that's for another time). What we have here is Brahms as if he were contemporary with Wagner rather than the Witch-finder General. Which he was. Big contrasts, a tendency to blend orchestra and voices in more than a hint of unending melos rather than quasi-symmetrical answering phrases, and a final movement (Selig sind die Toten) which sounds exactly as it should - a prefiguring of the contrapuntal chromatics of Parsifal. Simon Rattle's mid-noughties Brahms symphony cycle with the BPO for EMI was really good; this is even better.
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TOP 50 REVIEWERon 6 November 2009
I was prepared to like this Brahms Requiem but have to part company with the previous Amazon.uk 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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VINE VOICEon 31 May 2011
I listened to the whole of this in an afternoon, while I was doing other things. Well, what can I say, it is sheer bliss to listen to! I didn't know much about Brahms, and still don't to be honest, but that hardly matters does it? The CD lasts just over an hour and the music, and some operatic singing, all the way through is beautiful and awe-inspiring.

There are seven parts to the 'Requiem' and they are all good to listen to. Interestingly enough, the second part 'Denn alles Fleisch, es ist wie Gras' which translates roughly as 'all flesh is grass' a line from the Bible if I'm not very much mistaken, was used as the opening and ending credits of a very good documentary called 'The Nazis: A Warning from History'. This piece is so powerful and wonderful, you can see why they used it for a TV series really.

All in all, I would like to start collecting Brahms' other works, and you could do worse than start here.
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on 26 March 2013
This is a great recording and I am enjoying it immensely. ( I hate that you need to write lots )
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