Monday, December 3, 2012

REVIEW: Brahms’ German Requiem with HKPhil

Cultural Centre Concert Hall, Saturday December 1

Yes, I am blaming work for my very late review of the Anne-Sophie Mutter performance; while for this concert, I will keep my review short as well.

For his second inaugural concert, Jaap Van Zweden chose Brahms’ German Requiem. This must be the shortest Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra concert I have ever attended. Aside from feeling uncomfortable in the cramp seat of the concert hall (straight 65 minutes without interval), I am actually glad that they didn’t attempt to add a filler as the time and programme felt just right.

Brahms’ German Requiem stands out for me as it is unlike the customary Requiem Mass; it uses the Lutheran Bible instead of the Latin one and totally leave out the Last Judgement which makes it more of a work of comfort for the living rather than one for the souls of the dead. Also, it is not too “Brahms” :-) 

Like many Requiems, the chorus plays a central role and for this performance, the HKPhil invited not one but two choruses – West Australian Symphony Orchestra Chorus and Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra Chorus. The chorus started quite promising with beautiful balance and attention to details. Unfortunately, this capability didn’t last with much of the blame going to the male voices. While there was not enough weight in the bass, the biggest problem came from the tenor group with surprisingly thin and unsupported high notes and even occasional off notes.

The two soloists, however, sang most beautifully. German baritone Stephan Genz’s vocal coloring had just the right gravitas without being over-dramatic. Most noticeable was the remarkable evenness of tone throughout his vocal range. Meanwhile, Russian soprano Lyubov Petrova also gave a fine performance.  The orchestra did well with breadth and grandeur that was stately in effect.

Van Zweden & A German Requiem
30-11 & 1-12-2012 Fri & Sat 8PM
Hong Kong Cultural Centre Concert Hall

BRAHMS:  A German Requiem

Jaap van Zweden, conductor
Lyubov Petrova,  soprano
Stephan Genz,  baritone
West Australian Symphony Orchestra Chorus, chorus
Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra Chorus, chorus

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