Fate, Eternity, And A Few Waltzes

Review by: David Vernier

ondineschicksalslied

Artistic Quality: 9

Sound Quality: 9

Fate. Destiny. The Divine and the Human. Beauty and Death. Sorrow and Hope. Eternity. While the themes and texts (Hölderlin; Goethe; Schiller) of the primary works on this program are not technically “sacred”, their subjects are as profound and eternal, their music as provocative, sober, and transcendent as any depiction of the last judgement or hope for heavenly peace and joy. In works such as Schicksalslied, Gesang der Parzen, Nänie, and Bergräbnisgesang Brahms created a sort of sub-genre of choral music that’s unusual in the repertoire: their structures–less than 15 minutes in length–and performing requirements–chorus and orchestra–and particular secular themes make them somewhat difficult to program, so you don’t hear them very often. On recordings they are often just all stuck together–along with, say, the Alto Rhapsody, which still leaves the program a little short. Nevertheless, here we find some of Brahms’ most deeply personal and beautiful music, especially the Schicksalslied, which musically could be a stray movement from the Requiem (it was written shortly after).

The performances here are all very fine, the interpretations by Jaime Martín sensitive, the responsiveness of choir and orchestra appropriately dramatic where required and projecting a kind of sumptuous serenity throughout–in Tovey’s words, a “ruthless beauty”. After all the deep, dark confrontations with life and death, the divide between the human and the heavenly, eternity and fate, it’s somewhat strange to suddenly find oneself waltzing, but that’s what we get as the “filler” on this program–orchestrated versions (by Brahms) of nine of the Liebeslieder-Walzer. Perhaps this was not such an odd choice after all–a reminder that, whatever happens, life goes on, so we may as well experience some lightness and fun along with the more serious contemplations. And you have to be in a good mood after the marvelous concluding dance Am Donaustrande. Strongly recommended.



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Recording Details:

Reference Recording: Blomstedt/San Francisco Symphony & Chorus (Decca)

  • BRAHMS, JOHANNES:
    Schicksalslied (Song of Destiny) Op. 54; Gesang der Parzen (Song of the Fates) Op. 89; Nänie (Naenia) Op. 82; Begräbnisgesang (Funeral Song) Op. 13

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