Kings College Choir Delivers Uplifting English Brahms Requiem

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Brahms: An English Requiem (Delphian)
Mary Bevan, soprano
Marcus Farnsworth, baritone
James Baillieu and Richard Uttley, piano
Choir of Kings College London, conductor Joseph Fort

This has to be the least expected record of the year – a performance of Ein deutsches Requiem in the original English, at least in the texts of the original English Bible.

The work was so popular on reception, at a time when Bismarck was planting German boots all over Denmark, Austria and France, that London impresarios felt it might be prudent to produce it in a less contentious language. Since Victorian concertgoers knew their Bible, it went down a storm.

And today? It still does. The English words remain evocative and fit Brahms’s notes uncannily well. Apart from a few bars in ‘blessed are they that mourn’ where the chorus seems to be singing ‘Humperdinck, Humperdinck’, the text has the bulldog bite of a Stainer or Elgar oratorio only with added Brahms. I’m not sure I want to hear the German again any time soon.

Mary Bevan and Marcus Farnsworth are angelic soloists, unstressed and deeply engaged. James Baillieu and Richard Uttley accompany on a pair of Steinways and the Choir of Kings College London, conductor Joseph Fort, does the rest. Utterly uplifting. Play it to Mrs Merkel next time she flexes her muscles.

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Norman Lebrecht is a prolific writer on music and cultural affairs. His blog, Slipped Disc, is one of the most popular sites for cultural news. He presents The Lebrecht Interview on BBC Radio 3 and is a contributor to several publications, including the Wall Street Journal and The Standpoint. Visit every Friday for his weekly CD review.

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