Brahms' German Requiem is one of his most beautiful and accessible works that has always brought the best out of various conductors and orchestras. This new recording from Bremen is characteristically Teutonic and beefy to justify its presence in the exalted canon.
What strikes one immediately when listening to this tautly structured reading by Helbich is the brevity and sharpness of proceedings. The conductor wallops a full 13 minutes off the ageing 1976 EMI Karajan and almost 17 minutes off the monumental Klemperer in 1964. However these fast speeds do not detract from the general enjoyment of the piece.
Thornhill and Mertens are also fine exponents of the music and although they are relatively low key artists, they give a sterling interpretation of the solo pieces. One cannot expect the precision of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra from the Bremen forces but the whole project has an innate sense of homeliness that is extremely endearing.
What is certainly a winner here is the front cover, a stunning painting by Oehme titled 'Gothic Church Ruins in the Forest', very much Friedrich inspired and perfectly suited to the music here. Although I still retain affection for the older recordings mentioned above and the similarly excellent Lehmann (1956/Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra), this homespun recording from Bremen is now a clear front runner in the digital field.
Copyright © 2003, Gerald Fenech