Orfeón Donostiarra Excels in the Brahms Requiem

SpainSpain Brahms: Eine Deutsche Requiem, WDR Köln Sinfonieorchester, Orfeón Donostiarra, Jukka-Pekka Saraste (conductor), Kursaal Auditorium, San Sebastian, 28.8.2015 (JMI)Jose-Requirem

Soloists: Sophia Brommer, Tareq Nazmi

This Johannes Brahms work is not the usual Requiem: it is not music  for a Requiem Mass, but rather a composition with texts that falls between a cantata and an oratorio. Selected by Brahms himself, the texts are drawn from biblical stories and have a profound message of humanism and hope. The comments in the program that refer to Brahms’s intention at some point to change the title German Requiem to Human Requiem were quite revealing.

The work is one of the most demanding pieces ever written for choir. The Orfeón Donostiarra not only reached the required heights, they become the real star of the concert. From their entrance in the first movement, the 136 members gave a lesson in power and musicality, showing their exceptional quality with truly superb pianissimos. This is the third time that Orfeón Donostiarra  has performed in this year’s Quincena Musical, and it was their most brilliant and spectacular appearance.

Jukka-Pekka Saraste’s conducting seemed to me solid, reliable and convincing, although I missed more emotion. For the past five years, the Finnish conductor has been the music director of the Symphony Orchestra of Cologne Radio, one of the German groups most involved in the music of 20th century. There’s no question that this is an excellent orchestra, but I missed more brilliance in their sound, especially when compared with what was offered a few days ago by the St. Petersburg Philharmonic.

The soloists, Kuwait baritone Tareq Nazmi and German soprano Sophia Brommer, were both reasonably good though not first-rate.

The Kursaal was once again sold out, and the audience gave a warm reception to the artists, especially to Orfeón Donostiarra.

José M. Irurzun



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