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Brahms: Choral Music; Alto Rhapsody / Ewa Wolak, Wit/Warsaw PO

Album Summary

>Brahms, Johannes : Ave Maria, for female chorus in F major, Op. 12
>Brahms, Johannes : Funeral Hymn (Begräbnisgesang), for 5-voice chorus, winds & timpani, Op. 13
>Brahms, Johannes : Alto Rhapsody, Op. 53
>Brahms, Johannes : Schicksalslied, Op. 54
>Brahms, Johannes : Nänie, for chorus, orchestra & harp ad lib, Op. 82
>Brahms, Johannes : Gesang der Parzen, Op. 89
Conductor Ensemble Composer

Notes & Reviews:

Brahms's first connection with choral music came in 1857, and his first appointment in Vienna, in 1863, was to conduct the Singakademie. He premièred A German Requiem in the city and wrote widely for choral forces, taking a variety of poetic source material. Begräbnisgesang (Funeral Hymn) evinces a great feeling of solemnity, whilst Schicksalslied (Song of Destiny) is an urgent, volatile work. Nänie was written as a lament for the death of the painter Anselm Feuerbach, and the Alto Rhapsody has remained one of the greatest works for contralto in the repertoire.

"The large Warsaw Philharmonic Choir has a welcome solidity, unanimity and wamrth of tone...Wit's tempos tend to be on the brisk side - especially in the Gesang der Parzen, a performance that illuminates that piece's Baroque roots but somewhat mislays its underlying sense of tragic mystery...the field is crowded these days, but this new Naxos offering will be competitive at its budget price." -BBC Music Magazine

"Ewa Wolak is a rich-toned contralto, without a hint of a wobble, who can evoke exactly the kind of lyrical drama which the lovely Alto Rhapsody commands...The choral singing is radiant in its glowing simplicity...this super-budget collection is marvellously sung and played." -Gramophone

"You might not like Wit's approach if you like your Brahms volatile. His conducting is wonderfully judged, if slow, allowing the music to unfold with a measured eloquence that often generates a sense of gathering implacability...It's the Warsaw Philharmonic Choir's contribution, superbly controlled and articulate, that is so sensational here, however. Their performance of Nänie, in particular, is among the most beautiful on disc." -The Guardian

Gramophone
Antoni Wit is proving to be one of Naxos's greatest assets, a conductor of strong personality who puts musical values first, yet can readily create both drama and spontaneity in the recording studio. Moreover, Ewa Wolak is a a rich-toned contralto, without a hint of a wobble, who can evoke exactly the kind of lyrical drama which the lovely Alto Rhapsody commands. I cannot say more than her account reminds one of Dame Janet Baker, and the chorale at the work's close is richly satisfying, with the Warsaw Philharmonic Choir singing with great eloquence... this super-budget collection is marvellously sung and played.

BBC Music Magazine
An anthology of all Brahms's shorter choral-orchestral works is a welcome thing, especially in performances as sterling as these.

The Northern Echo
The album includes the solemn Begrabnisgesang... the urgent and volatile Schicksaslied and the Alto Rhapsody; one of the greatest works for contralto performed with dynamism by Ewa Wolak. Highly recommended.

Liverpool Daily Post
This is a lovely disc with fine sound.

David's Review Corner
Antoni Wit draws warmth and beautifully textured sounds from the orchestra, their Germanic qualities surpassing most German orchestras. The engineering acts as an ideal mirror on the performances. Excellent programme notes with the original words and an English translation included.

Notes & Reviews:

Recording information: Warsaw Philharmonic Hall, Warsaw, Poland.



Reviews

Johannes Brahms and company
Most classical listeners will know Brahms for the great German Requiem, but he wrote for many combinations of voices and instruments; this disc features half a dozen of his shorter works for mixed chorus with full orchestral accompaniment. The selections tend to be on the somber side--the works with piano are often lighter--although an "Ave Maria" for women and orchestra is lilting and folk-like. Ewa Wolak takes the solo part in the famous Alto Rhapsody, confidently negotiating the wide intervals, and sounding at times a little like Janet Baker. I've always had a soft spot for "Nanie," with its elegant, almost languid fugal introduction. By contrast, the opening of "The Song of the Fates," which follows, is slashing and dramatic. Conductor Antoni Wit guides the assembled forces, getting some lovely soft singing from the big group. And--for once!--the booklet has all the texts, in both the original (mostly) German, and English translation.
Submitted on 02/12/12 by Jim D. 
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Works Details

>Brahms, Johannes : Ave Maria, for female chorus in F major, Op. 12
  • Conductor: Antoni Wit
  • Ensemble: Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra
  • Running Time: 4 min. 53 sec.
  • Period Time: Romantic
  • Written: 1858

>Brahms, Johannes : Funeral Hymn (Begräbnisgesang), for 5-voice chorus, winds & timpani, Op. 13
  • Conductor: Antoni Wit
  • Ensemble: Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra
  • Running Time: 8 min. 52 sec.
  • Period Time: Romantic
  • Form: Choral
  • Written: 1858

>Brahms, Johannes : Alto Rhapsody, Op. 53
  • Conductor: Antoni Wit
  • Ensemble: Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra
  • Running Time: 14 min. 51 sec.
  • Period Time: Romantic
  • Written: 1869

>Brahms, Johannes : Schicksalslied, Op. 54
  • Conductor: Antoni Wit
  • Ensemble: Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra
  • Running Time: 17 min. 56 sec.
  • Period Time: Romantic
  • Written: 05/1871

>Brahms, Johannes : Nänie, for chorus, orchestra & harp ad lib, Op. 82
  • Conductor: Antoni Wit
  • Ensemble: Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra
  • Running Time: 13 min. 41 sec.
  • Period Time: Romantic
  • Form: Choral
  • Written: 1880

>Brahms, Johannes : Gesang der Parzen, Op. 89
  • Conductor: Antoni Wit
  • Ensemble: Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra
  • Running Time: 9 min. 37 sec.
  • Period Time: Romantic
  • Form: Vocal
  • Written: 1882