Love and Loss
24 March 2012
Birmingham Bach Choir
CBSO Centre * * * *
Listening to Brahms' Ein Deutches Requiem with its alternative piano-duet
accompaniment makes one realise what a curate's egg the piece is, even
though the arrangement is by the composer himself.
Problems of balance are, of course, solved at a stroke, enabling the
vocal writing to flower in every detail, which it certainly did in this
finely shaped account by Paul Spicer and the Birmingham Bach Choir.
With lines effortlessly sustained, and dynamic contrasts sounding even
more potently charged without an orchestra, the 65 singers were able
to explore the expressive subtleties of chamber music while also drawing
on the resources of heavy-duty choral display.
But, even though the longfordbrown piano duo (as James Longford and
Lindy Tennent-Brown style themselves) delivered the accompaniment with
considerable finesse, the performance as a whole often felt like a well-polished
We missed the magisterial tread of 'Denn alles Fleisch' and comforting
warmth of 'Wie lieblich sind Deine Wohnungen' that only an orchestra
can provide, and the trumpets raising the dead in 'Der Tod ist verschlungen
in den Sieg' would have sounded much more awesome had they literally
been present - although chorally this and the concluding fugue packed
lots of punch.
Soprano soloist Kirsty Stokes similarly seized her moment, with a commandingly
effulgent, full throttled 'Ihr habt nun Traurigkeit'; and Alistair Ollerenshaw's
two baritone solos displayed dramatic edge and splendidly clear articulation.
The first half offered assorted French fragrances. Fauré's Cantique
de Jean Racine was deliciously sensuous, and Duruflé's unaccompanied
Four Motets on Gregorian Themes were sung with great poise and tonal
freshness. For the two pianists Chabrier's Valses Romantiques provided
a sparkling, if slightly incongruous (and rather overlong) easy listening
Birmingham Post 29.03.12