- Hyperions Schicksalslied (Song of Destiny) for chorus and orchestra, Op. 54
- Alto Rhapsody, for alto, male chorus & orchestra, Op. 53
- Begräbnisgesang ("Nun lasst uns den Leib"), for 5-voice chorus, winds & timpani ("Funeral Hymn"), Op. 13
- Ave Maria, for female chorus & keyboard (or orchestra) in F major, Op. 12
- Gesang der Parzen ("Es fürchte die Götter"), for chorus & orchestra ("Song of the fates"), Op. 89
- Nänie ("Auch das Schöne muss sterben"), for chorus, orchestra & harp ad lib, Op. 82
Brahms: Choral Musicby Antoni Wit
This collection of short choral pieces by Johannes Brahms is an unusual one in present times, partly because many of the choral parts are quite demanding. For a choral club in the 19th century, however, it wouldn't have been so novel, and there are great beauties on offer here. After the fetching "Ave Maria, Op. 12," the rest of the program is dense, metaphysical, and, with the partial exception of the "Alto Rhapsody, Op. 53," concerned with death. There are two funeral songs, and two more about fate, and this is not the warm, humanistic Brahms of the "German Requiem, Op. 45." The performances are profound and dignified, and the overall effect uncanny. The Warsaw Philharmonic Choir under choirmaster Henryk Wojnarowski has a gorgeous rich tone that is undiminished by the long lines of the music, and the "Alto Rhapsody" achieves real grandeur in the hands of contralto Ewa Wolak. But the real credit goes to the Warsaw Philharmonic and conductor Antoni Wit, who keep a consistent level of tension and momentum in difficult, dark material like the somber "Nänie, Op. 82" (Funeral Song), a rarely performed late Brahms masterwork. This isn't an album you'd choose for a garden party, but Naxos appears to have struck hold with these Polish musicians in its long period of experimentation with Eastern European ensembles. The engineering, accomplished in Warsaw Philharmonic Hall on a series of dates in early 2010, makes the lines of this intricate music perfectly clear.
- Release Date:
Performance CreditsAntoni Wit Primary Artist
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Most classical listeners will know Brahms for the great German Requiem, but he wrote for many combinations of voices and instruments; this disc features half a dozen of his shorter works for mixed chorus with full orchestral accompaniment. The selections tend to be on the somber side--the works with piano are often lighter--although an "Ave Maria" for women and orchestra is lilting and folk-like. Ewa Wolak takes the solo part in the famous Alto Rhapsody, confidently negotiating the wide intervals, and sounding at times a little like Janet Baker. I've always had a soft spot for "Nanie," with its elegant, almost languid fugal introduction. By contrast, the opening of "The Song of the Fates," which follows, is slashing and dramatic. Conductor Antoni Wit guides the assembled forces, getting some lovely soft singing from the big group. And--for once!--the booklet has all the texts, in both the original (mostly) German, and English translation.