Kile Smith Suggests: Johannes Brahms: A German Requiem
Johannes Brahms: Ein Deutsches Requiem
Berlin Philharmonic, Thomas Quasthoff, Dorothea Röschmann, Simon Rattle
It starts in regions below your feet where basses and cellos and violas dwell, this irresistible lava-stream of a requiem. With none of the thundering fear of Verdi’s, it begins in blessing and ends in comfort. Brahms chose the biblical texts himself, in German, and told a friend it might simply be called a “human Requiem.” Emphasizing peace over judgment, only Death is judged, leaving all else to glow with life.
Simon Rattle rightly decides not to deepen what is already profound. He instead concentrates Berlin’s sound: they don’t swing for the fences, yet the power intensifies. Even the satirical sixth-movement waltz at “Death, where is thy sting?” is not furious, as it often is, but is self-assured and practically en famille. The soloists shimmer, Quasthoff making his solos sound less oratorical and more like lieder. This is indeed a very human, very German, Requiem.