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Ludwig Van
Toronto Montreal

LEBRECHT LISTENS | Brahms' German Requiem... In English?

By Norman Lebrecht on November 24, 2017

Brahms: An English Requiem (Delphian)

★★★★ (out of five)

This has to be the least expected record of the year — a performance of Brahm’s A German Requiem in the original English, at least in the texts of the original English Bible.

The work was so popular on reception, at a time when Bismarck was planting German boots all over Denmark, Austria and France, that London impresarios felt it might be prudent to produce it in a less contentious language. Since Victorian concertgoers knew their Bible, it went down a storm.

And today? It still does. The English words remain evocative and fit Brahms’s notes uncannily well. Apart from a few bars in ‘blessed are they that mourn’ where the chorus seems to be singing ‘Humperdinck, Humperdinck’, the text has the bulldog bite of a Stainer or Elgar oratorio only with added Brahms. I’m not sure I want to hear the German again anytime soon.

Mary Bevan and Marcus Farnsworth are angelic soloists, unstressed and deeply engaged. James Baillieu and Richard Uttley accompany on a pair of Steinways and the Choir of Kings College London, conductor Joseph Fort, does the rest. Utterly uplifting. Play it to Mrs Merkel next time she flexes her muscles.

Brahms: An English Requiem (Delphian) is available at amazon.ca and iTunes.

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Norman Lebrecht

Norman Lebrecht is one of the most widely-read commentators on music, culture and cultural politics. He is a regular presenter on BBC Radio 3 and a contributor to the Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, Standpoint, Sinfini and other publications. His blog, Slipped Disc, is among the most widely read cultural sites online, breaking exclusive stories and campaigning against human abuse and acts of injustice in the cultural industries.

Norman Lebrecht

Norman Lebrecht is one of the most widely-read commentators on music, culture and cultural politics. He is a regular presenter on BBC Radio 3 and a contributor to the Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, Standpoint, Sinfini and other publications. His blog, Slipped Disc, is among the most widely read cultural sites online, breaking exclusive stories and campaigning against human abuse and acts of injustice in the cultural industries.
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