Johannes Brahms wrote a large amount of technically high-quality music, much of it quite dull since he had little original to say and derived his works from others (particularly Beethoven) who had already said something previously. But grief has a way of moving even the most emotionless of men, and Ein Deutsches Requiem became his most original work.
For tonight’s performance, Herbert Blomstedt took the podium of the Musikverein. Both Blomstedt and the Golden Hall provided the frame – although a big work, it is delicate. The quiet sections must remain detached but full, and the forte and even fortissimo can never be allowed to overwhelm the lines. Blomstedt’s careful phrasing and the beautiful acoustics of the Golden Hall accomplished their task.
Of course, it also helped to have the Wiener Symphoniker and Singverein on the stage, both institutions also in their best sound. The clear lines and crisp words were never abrupt. The extremely tall Swede Peter Mattei provided dramatic but sensitive baritone solos, and the surprisingly short German Christiane Karg gave a daintily substantial soprano solo.