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Our motto: "Critical thinking in the cheap seats." Unbiased, honest classical music and opera opinions, occasional obituaries and classical news reporting, since 2007. All written content © 2018 by Paul J. Pelkonen. For more about Superconductor, visit this link. For advertising rates, click this link. Follow us on Facebook.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Concert Review: White Light Festival Opens With German Requiem

Daniel Harding
The stated goal of the 2010 White Light Festival is to explore (and hopefully achieve) transcendence through different music and cultures. If the opening concert, given at Avery Fisher Hall on Sunday afternoon is any indication, this new Lincoln Center festival is off to a great start.

This concert featured the Dresden Staatskapelle, one of the finest German orchestras and the Westminster Chorus performing Brahms' Ein Deutsches Requiem under the baton of British conductor Daniel Harding. This is a unique work. It is sung entirely in German and consists of seven selections from the Lutheran edition of the New Testament as chosen by Brahms himself.

Although many composers saved their "big choral work" for late in their career, Brahms' Requiem dates from his fertile early period. The composer's choice of texts focuses not on the eternal hellfire and wrath of the Catholic death mass, but on passages that offer comfort to the living and eternal salvation to the dead. He composed this work following the death of his mother, and it stands out among other works in this genre because of the compassion and warmth of Brahms' message.

This German Requiem featured strong soloists. Baritone Matthais Goerne showed his deep commitment to this work and its meaning. Not only did he sing without a score, one could see his lips moving along with the choristers at several points during the performance. Mr. Goerne, a familiar face as Papageno in Mozart's Zauberflöte, has a warm, pleasing baritone. He was well matched with soprano Christiane Karg, whose full, rounded voice arched beautifully over the slow fifth movement.

Like many of the great orchestras, the Dresden Staatskapelle produces a unique sound. Their own particular tone quality stresses warmth and the smooth blending of the four families of the orchestra, melding the strings, brass and wind into a melliflous whole. And this is repertory that is ideally suited to their talents. Whether negotiating the complex fugue in the sixth movement (which had the basses playing with such enthusiasm that two of them were head-banging) or sounding out the clarion call of the Last Judgement, they were the ideal accompaniment to the singers.

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Critical Thinking in the Cheap Seats

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Since 2007, Superconductor has grown from an occasional concert or CD review to a near-daily publication covering classical music, opera and the arts in and around NYC, with excursions to Boston, Philadelphia, and upstate NY. I am a freelance writer living and working in Brooklyn NY. And no, I'm not a conductor.