Jonathan Alder / Joshard Daus / EuropaChorAkademie

Brahms: Ein deutsches Requiem

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Johannes Brahms made an arrangement of Ein deutsches Requiem with the accompaniment for piano, four-hands, which is performed and recorded with some frequency, but this recording uses a version by composer Heinrich Poos scored for two pianos and timpani. This is an arrangement that stands as an authentic alternative to the orchestral version, not just a functional accommodation for choral groups that don't have the luxury of an orchestral accompaniment. It's most notable for its lean textures, which highlight the clarity and discipline of Brahms' counterpoint, and allow the listener to hear the piece in a new light. It is judicious in its use of the timpani, and Poos wisely avoids any bombast, even in the big moments where it would be tempting to cut loose with all the crashing vehemence two pianos are capable of. Especially when performed with a group the size of EuropaChorAkademie, this version of the Requiem comes across as a remarkable piece of choral chamber music. The sound of EuropaChorAkademie is clean, youthful, and unmannered, and the tone and blend are beautifully pure. The singers perform with nuanced attention to the leadership of Joshard Daus, who founded the group in 1997. Daus' vision of the work is well matched to Poos' arrangement, with the counterpoint clearly etched and the textures transparent. His tempos are fleet (the performance lasts just an hour, 10 or 15 minutes shorter than the average performance), but never sound hurried. Soloists Fionnuala Sherry and Michael Volle have pure, light, fresh voices that are ideally suited to the character of this performance. Pianists Jonathan Alder and Thorsten Kaldewei and timpanist Benjamin Heinsohn play with sensitive musicality. Glor Classics' sound is warm and clean, with a good sense of presence. This revelatory performance should be of interest to anyone who loves Brahms' Requiem.

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