Valery Gergiev

Johannes Brahms: German Requiem

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Valery Gergiev, with his largely Russian repertory and dramatic manner, isn't the first conductor who comes to mind for Brahms' warm and ecumenical German Requiem. But this reading, which was half of a pair of successive concerts at the Barbican concert hall in London (music from both performances is used here), works very well, and there's not much identifiably Russian about it. Gergiev adopts the modern tendency to take the work in flowing, moderate tempos, and it comes in at just over an hour, quite a bit less than in many of the classic versions. One challenge with this kind of reading is to keep all the forces intact, for Brahms, as warmly melodic as he may be, is always a contrapuntist at heart. Here the sizable fugues of the second movement, "Denn alles Fleisch ist wie Gras," pose few problems for the London Symphony Chorus and its director, Simon Halsey. The work's big tunes, which so many listeners find life-affirming, are done with the straightforwardness that serves them best, and the players of the London Symphony Orchestra, who surely have played the work many times, find freshness in it. The live sound from the LSO's own label is exemplary. A fine representation of this work for both collectors and newcomers to its wonders.

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