The Canterbury Choral Society, in conjunction with the Oklahoma City Philharmonic, gave a stirring performance of “Ein deutches Requeim (A German Requiem),” Op. 45 by Johannes Brahms.
It is the composer’s longest work, combining orchestra, choir and two soloists.
The performance was richly textured, the chorus and the orchestra combining smoothly in all of the seven movements.
The orchestration leans a little heavily on the brass at times, and the two soloists were occasionally overshadowed by the chorus.
Nonetheless, the work as a whole was well performed and moving.
This work demands excellence from all performers; “A German Requiem” creates an environment of comfort in the delicately structured interaction of chorus and orchestra.
The first half, with a text focus on lamentation, balances against the comfort and hope offered in the last half.
Brahms uses rich, fugal elements and repetitive themes, balancing the composition in the first half against the second, even as he balances the orchestration of the voices with the orchestration of the instruments. There are no solo movements; the soloists are supported and answered by the chorus in both baritone movements (3 and 6) as well as in movement 5, the only soprano movement.
Canterbury Choral Society gave us a beautifully performed choral experience.
Soloists Terrance Brown, baritone, and soprano Esther Jane Hardenbergh were late additions; the original soloists mentioned in the program both had to cancel due to illness.
Brown’s rich voice was occasionally lost in the choir. This is partly the composer’s doing, and weaves the soloist into the choir rather than making the choir a backup ensemble.
One does want to be able to hear the solo line in combination with the choir, and that can be difficult in the lower registers.
By contrast, Hardenbergh’s lines were, for the most part, almost stridently apparent.
The orchestral writing of “A German Requiem” is some of the most carefully crafted of Brahms’ many works; it’s a favorite with the instrumentalists as well as with singers.