Swedish Radio Choir, Peter Dijkstra – Johannes Brahms – Mass & Motets (2014) DSF DSD64

Swedish Radio Choir, Peter Dijkstra – Johannes Brahms – Mass & Motets (2014)
DSF Stereo DSD64/2.82MHz | Time – 57:25 minutes | 2,3 GB | Genre: Classical
FLAC (tracks) 24-bit/88,2 kHz | Time – 57:25 minutes | 0,99 GB
Studio Masters, Official Digital Download – Source: nativeDSDmusic | Booklet, Front Cover |  © Channel Classics Records B.V.

This programme features highlights of German Romanticism and one of the most familiar and frequently performed composers: Johannes Brahms. More particularly, Brahms’s choral music ‘in all its pureness’, the genre that made him so well-known and well-loved among the countless choirs of the time in Germany and Austria. Four years before Brahms was born in Hamburg, Felix Mendelssohn dusted off Bach’s St Matthew Passion and had it performed again, a hundred years after the premiere in 1729. Brahms likewise cherished the remembrance of Bach. In Vienna he performed his motets and throughout Brahms’s life, Bach remained his primary source of inspiration.

With its 32 professional singers, the Swedish Radio Choir forms an instrument with a range from the most delicate a cappella tones to oratorios of enormous power and versatility. Every individual is allowed his or her place in the group, resulting in an exclusive expressiveness – the Swedish Radio Choir’s unique sound. The Swedish Radio Choir, which is one of the world’s most respected a cappella ensembles, was founded in 1925, but it was not until 25 years later (1952), under the leadership of their new principal conductor Eric Ericson, that the choir began to develop into the flexible instrument that it has now become. And every principal conductor after him has also contributed to the character of the choir, adding new colour and accomplishments. The present principal conductor, since the autumn of 2007, is Peter Dijkstra.

This release on the Dutch audiophile Channel Classics label offers some real Brahms rarities: a rare thing in a marketplace where this composer’s work has been pretty exhaustively explored. The Swedish Radio Choir under Peter Dijkstra does not quite make a case for any of these works as counterparts to Ein deutsches Requiem, Op. 45, but the music is interesting enough and in several cases unlike anything else Brahms ever wrote. Mostly short, these a cappella works reflect more than almost any others by Brahms his engagement with early music: not only Bach, but Heinrich Schütz, Giovanni Gabrieli, and even Palestrina in the fragmentary Missa Canonica (tracks 6-8), which did not have its premiere until 1983. The Fest-und Gedenksprüche (say that fast five times), Op. 109, are responsorial structures intended for outdoor performance; other works are simple and declamatory in the manner of a chorale, but characteristic of Brahms’ harmonic world. The late Three Motets, Op. 110, have the economy of the composer’s late chamber music, and the longer Two Motets, Op. 74, especially the first piece, Warum ist das Licht gegeben, achieve a Romantic extension of Bach’s language in an entirely different way from Mendelssohn, who seems to be the direct ancestor but not the model for many of these works. The music is not pious in mood, which one might expect from a composer of whom Dvorák said, “Such a man, such a fine soul — and he believes in nothing! He believes in nothing!” Instead, Brahms engages in dialogue with musical ancestors who did not show up directly in his music, but are there nonetheless. The album is something of a labor of love for Dijkstra, who elicits from the Swedish Radio Choir a sound with a lot of texture, but with clear rendition of the texts. The sound from a Stockholm church is a major attraction: appropriate to the music’s subject, but leaving the choir fully intelligible. Those who do not speak German might wish for translations of the texts in the booklet, or at least a link to them, in place of photos, coupons, a discography, and even a credit for the cables used by the engineers, but this is on balance an intriguing find for those who love Brahms. –AllMusic Review by James Manheim


Johannes Brahms (1833-1897)

Zwei Motetten opus 74 (1877)
1. Warum ist das Licht gegeben 11.47
2. O Heiland, reiss die Himmel auf 5.21

Fest-und Gedenksprüche opus 109 (1888-89)
3. Unsere Väter hofften auf dich 2.19
4. Wenn ein starker Gewappneter 3.13
5. Wo ist ein so herrlich Volk 4.41

Missa Canonica opus posth. (1856-1862)
6. Sanctus 2.49
7. Benedictus 2.00
8. Agnus Dei 4.36

Zwei Motetten opus 29 (1856 -1860)
9. Es ist das Heil uns kommen her 5.10
10. Schaffe in mir, Gott, ein rein Herz 6.56

Drei Motetten opus 110 (1889)
11. Ich aber bin elend 2.56
12. Ach, arme Welt, du trügest mich 2.03
13. Wenn wir in höchsten Nöten sein 3.24

Swedish Radio Choir
Peter Dijkstra, conductor

Recorded: September 2013, Engelbrekts Church, Stockholm




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