Simone Young conducts A German Requiem
Sydney Symphony Orchestra
Opera concert hall
Baritone Bo Skovhus sang the first line of Brahms’ third movement A german requiem with a wonderfully textured voice of sepulchral richness and even a hint of drama and theatricality – Lord teach me that I must have an end.
You could almost imagine he had learned his lesson and wanted to come back and tell us how it was. Drama and theatricality, of the kind used by Mozart in his Requiem and which would later become such a defining characteristic of Verdi’s great work in the genre, were things which Brahms scrupulously avoided, not only in this work but throughout. of his life – he once wrote to Clara Schumann that he had given up all idea of opera and marriage.
Brahms begins the work with a chorus of contemplative calm – Blessed are those who mourn. It omits the violins entirely so that the violas and cellos create a bed of “bovine heat” beneath the choir (to use a phrase from a different but not unrelated context by the novelist Thomas Mann).
Faure was later to exploit the devotional humility of this color in his own Requiem. The second movement – For all flesh is like grass – is severe and prescient. The anthem-like unison exhortation, soft at first then loud, gave the Sydney Philharmonia its first shot at full-voiced splendour.
For the fourth movement, the chorus – How lovely are your tabernacles – conductor Simone Young’s tempos modeled reserve rather than lilting grace. The movement brought out a certain finesse of sound among the tenors in the choir.
It’s been a while since Sydney had the chance to hear soprano Emma Matthews and in the fifth movement she showed us her brilliant beautiful canto the tone evolved into a broader sound well suited to this repertoire while retaining its pitch accuracy.
Skovhus returned with definite expressive lines in the sixth movement, but perhaps the main structural import here is the opportunity he gives chorus and orchestra to create soulful turbulence in what is truly the first vigorous music. Artwork.