The initial response of many listeners coming for the first time to Robert Schumann's Requiem may be bafflement: where has this piece been, and why are performances and recordings so scarce? The amount of time Schumann devoted to its composition and revisions is an indication of his feeling of its significance in his output. It may not be a groundbreaking work, but throughout it is lyrically eloquent, dramatic, and deeply felt, and some of its movements are genuine striking. The Dies Irae is particularly effective in the sense of terror and emptiness created by its swooping leaps of an octave or a minor ninth. The first movement, Requiem aeternam, and the last, Benedictus, are especially notable for their grace and serenity. Schumann discreetly uses the five soloists as a sort of chamber ensemble to contrast with the larger chorus, so there is no place for individual grandstanding, and the singers here blend beautifully.
The soloists have more opportunity to shine in the even less-frequently performed Der Königssohn, a 25-minute narrative "Ballade" for soloists, chorus, and orchestra, essentially a small dramatic cantata, one of four works he composed in this genre. In this piece, as in others like the secular oratorio Das Paradies und die Peri, Schumann poured some first-rate inspiration into musical forms that seem to have little appeal to modern audiences, so unfortunately their outings are few and far between, making this recording all the more valuable. The singers, alto Ingeborg Danz, tenor Christoph Prégardien, baritone Adolph Seidel, and bass Yorck Felix Speer bring polished vocalism and dramatic punch to their roles. The CD is filled out with the warmly lyrical, ruminative Nachtlied for chorus and orchestra. Georg Grün draws committed, idiomatic performances from KammerChor Saarbrücken and Deutsche Radio Philharmonie Saarbrücken Kaiserlauten.