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An Involving Performance

Brahms' German Requiem,
sung by the Derwent Singers,
reviewed by MIKE WHEELER


The version of Brahms' German Requiem with the orchestral part transcribed by the composer for piano duet has been receiving some attention lately. As the Derwent Singers' performance showed, it can be a deeply satisfying experience in its own right, not merely second best (Derby Cathedral, Derby, UK, 7 March, 2009).

Sensitively partnered by Beate Toyka and Clive Pollard, the choir produced a remarkable range of dynamics, with no lack of power at climaxes. There was plenty of muscular vigour in the fugal sections, and conductor Richard Roddis' steady tempo gave the fourth movement a radiant tranquillity. Soprano Caroline Palmer and baritone Jeremy Leaman were the eloquent soloists.

The fugue in the third movement began a little uncertainly, and the sopranos were not always in the centre of the note in the fourth movement, but this was an involving performance.

The unaccompanied pieces in Part 1 were cannily chosen, from Schütz, one of the influences of Brahms' choral writing -- a dignified account of Selig sind die Toten -- through Parry, influenced by Brahms -- a steady, thoughtful reading of There is an Old Belief from the Songs of Farewell -- through to Parry's pupil Vaughan Williams, whose Valiant-for-Truth got a dramatic performance with some effectively flexible tempi.

The concert was partly a tribute to two recently deceased members, one of whom was a devotee of Elizabethan music. Accordingly, Caroline Palmer, with the multi-talented Jeremy Leaman on lute, gave refined, stylish performances of Francis Pilkington's Rest Sweet Nymphs and Thomas Campion's Never Weather-Beaten Sail.

Copyright © 26 March 2009 Mike Wheeler, Derby UK


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