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.