Nikolaus Harnoncourt / Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra

Brahms: Ein deutsches Requiem

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Widely respected as a pioneer in the field of early music who employed original instruments in performances of Baroque and Classical music, Nikolaus Harnoncourt is also admired for his insightful interpretations of 19th century music. His 2007 recording with the Vienna Philharmonic of Johannes Brahms' Ein deutsches Requiem is characteristic of his handling of the Romantic repertoire, insofar as he clearly knows the best scholarship on performance style, yet neither makes authenticity a fetish nor lets expression suffer through an obsession with period practice. The sound of the orchestra is quite modern and full, and there is no attempt to make the strings play with minimal vibrato or to make the ensemble seem reduced in size or altered in the seating arrangement, unlike some historically informed performances. Furthermore, Harnoncourt's tempos are conventional, and the pacing is steady and even on the slow and reverent side, so his approach shows that he is far from doctrinaire in his choices and doesn't always follow a revisionist approach. The singing by the Arnold Schoenberg Choir is quite rich and smoothly blended, and the solos by soprano Genia Kühmeier and baritone Thomas Hampson are warm and expressive. Overall, the sound of the recording is fine, though RCA's microphone placement seems a little distant and soft-focused, so some of the details in the counterpoint seem hazy.

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