Brahms - Ein Deutsches Requiem, Op. 45: VII. Selig sind die Toten, die in dem Herrn sterben (Part I)
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Uploaded on May 13, 2009
There is something deeply unsettling and restless about this performance, I can't put my finger on it though. It's lyrical (just listen to that soft, yet snappy brass!), transparent but there's something very evanescent and fragile about Kegel's take on the work, I find it deeply moving.
Kegel's unjustly forgotten these days, he was by far the most important champion of contemporary music in the communist German Democratic Republic, not always an easy role given the politics at the time. He was frequently plagued by depression and reputably not an easy person to work with - a perfectionist who molded the Leipzig Radio Choir into the best German-speaking choir at the time, one of the best choirs in the world. Brahms' Requiem is primarily a choral piece (the orchestra's prime purpose is to comment and back the choir, one of its anachronistic qualities) it profits immensely from the choir's virtuosity, knowledge of the text and native pronunciation.
Kegel's interpretation is both analytical and lyrical, he's not afraid to take liberties with the tempo either - you can almost smell the brimstone as the choir sings, no, yells "Der Tod ist verschlungen in den Sieg" at the top of their lungs. But even during the intense fugues each word is intelligible. The orchestra plays beautifully, especially the brass.
Siegfried Lorenz with his clean, almost tenor-like timbre sings the baritone solos beautifully, his unpretentious, yet clear diction is a marvel in itself, far too many singers try to over-dramatize these humble, mysterious lines. I'm not all that happy with Häggander's contribution, her voice is a bit shrill - but then the aria is monstrously difficult.
All in all one of the greatest Requiems ever recorded, together with Abbado's probably the best digitally recorded one.
Kegel committed suicide in 1990 (five years after this performance), under the impression that his lifework, the Radio Choir Leipzig, would be disbanded. He left many recordings, most of them available on Berlin Classics at low prices, among his most outstanding achievements is a terrific recording of Schönberg's "Gurre-Lieder" with the wonderful Eva-Maria Bundschuh singing the soprano part and the best "Moses and Aron" I've ever heard, just as transparent as Boulez' but far more dramatic and passionate. His Webern is equally excellent, just as fiery and fleet as early Boulez but far more lyrical - again, that soft, lean brass! Gorgeous. Then there's the best Carmina Burana I've ever heard (the old one from '60), razor-sharp and almost chamber-like - the choirs virtuosity makes even the more repetitive parts interesting. His recording of Mahler's First is the best I've ever heard together with Kubelik's, a great Parsival and countless recordings of 20th century compositions, I really like his Bartok and Stravinsky performances. His recording of Britten's War Requiem his last recording before he killed himself is in some ways even more crushing than Britten's own recording of it, though the flawed English diction of Theo Adam holds it down a bit.
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