June 04, 2011
Album of the week
Take a German orchestra, a Swedish choir, and two of today’s leading French singers, and bring them all under the baton of Estonian-American conductor Paavo Järvi. The result is a new recording of Brahms's German Requiem (Ein Deutsches Requiem) that is among the most appealing in recent memory.
The oldest son in a conducting clan that includes father Neeme Järvi and brother Kristjan Järvi, Paavo Järvi recently finished a largely well-received decade as music director of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. He’s now shifting his focus back to Europe, where he became music director of the Orchestre de Paris in September. He also holds posts in Germany with the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen and the Frankfurt Radio Orchestra.
Järvi has just the temperament for a work like the German Requiem. Unlike a more traditional, somber Mass for the Dead, the German Requiem builds on themes of comfort and humanism. The composer took up the work on it after his mother’s death in 1865, completing it three years later. In place of Latin liturgy, Brahms set passages from the Lutheran Bible, and there are allusions to Bach throughout.
The Frankfurt Radio Symphony brings a wide range of dynamics and careful gradations of sound. The Swedish Radio Choir, one of the best choral groups around, sings very expressively yet with appropriate restraint. Natalie Dessay, a frequent Met star, gives a passionate performance of the devilishly difficult fifth-movement soprano solo while Ludovic Tézier brings a rich, penetrating baritone. This may not be breezy summertime listening, but its contemplative power is well worth your time.
Brahms's A German Requiem
Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra / Paavo Järvi
Swedish Radio Choir
Natalie Dessay, soprano
Ludovic Tézier, baritone
Available at Arkivmusic.com