Large & Refined
A monumental experience: Donald Runnicles conducts the "German Requiem” in the Philharmonie.
Can that go well? Is it not an eternity ago that 200 singers filed onto the stage for an oratorio? A monumental practice that is long obsolete for Romantic era works, especially for Brahms' "German Requiem" which in reduction and concentration almost resists the overwhelming potential of large form?
One dares question his own ears when, in the Philharmonie, The Atlanta Symphony Orchestra Chorus commences: There a word like “selig” is in such a way articulated that there is hardly a noticeable break between the syllables, as if the ensemble had became large with Baroque tonal inflection. There one finds colors of piano which are actually physically impossible with such large forces, for instance the infinitely tender interjection "Ich will euch trösten,” which allowed the soprano Helena Juntunen to sing more intimately still. This choir, prepared by Norman Mackenzie, also displays a stylistic sensitivity which in angular compressions can foreshadow Mahler's Eighth and later in gentle confidence sound like a piece by Mendelssohn.
The Berlin Philharmonic deals appreciably with this intelligent, extremely text-oriented attitude that also describes bass-baritone Gerald Finley: never roaring, unrestrained in the tenor range, but pleading. Conductor Donald Runnicles satisfies there the role of a reliable guide. The gestural vocabulary of the Deutsche Oper Music Director is quite small, securing a dignified recognition but also the novelty of the evening. Sebastian Currier’s Harp Concerto (with the Philharmonic’s Marie-Pierre Langlamet as soloist) is a suite of well constructed tableaux which fit into each vacation home: noncommittal arts and crafts with tonal centers through which a harp glissando gladly flows into a triangle ping.
After this Philharmonic-commissioned premiere work by the 50 year old American, Johannes Brahms is only to be discovered anew as quite progressive. By the last words of the choir, one sees a universe as much unredeemed as free. Shouts of praise for the exceptional singers from Atlanta.
(Translation, J.W. Baxter)
Thursday, December 24, 2009
ASOC in Berlin: Der Tagesspiegel review
Well, Jeff Baxter, choral administrator to the ASOC, beat me to the punch on translating the review from the Tagesspiegel. You can read the original German here, or Jeff's translation below: