Brahms's German Requiem

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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The British triumphed over the Americans in a recent survey of the world's Top 20 Choirs in Gramophone magazine. But WQXR wants to know which country you think has the better choruses. You told us you preferred the Monteverdi Choir's recording of Johannes Brahms's German Requiem Op. 45 - and we played it at noon.


Sample excerpts from the two recordings:

Atlanta Symphony Orchestra; Atlanta Symphony Chorus; Robert Spano, conductor:

Orchestre Revolutionnaire et Romantique; Monteverdi Choir; John Eliot Gardiner, conductor:

Comments [50]

slmnyc from New York

How wonderful to hear the whole piece. A friend couldn't understand why one of my most favorites was a requiem; how gloomy. As someone who's experienced a lot of loss, the Brahms never fails to lift me up. Where other requiems are designed to send the deceased onward, this one is meant to comfort and uplift the ones left behind.

Jan. 26 2011 01:19 PM
Nancy from NY

Thank you for playing this. I assume this is your way of "making up" for playing a mere excerpt of the Requiem during your year-end countdown.

Jan. 26 2011 12:44 PM
Erwin Raith from Hackensack, N.J.

sorry,I do not think this Gardner/Monteverdi choir does justice to Brahms, it is way to
beautiful -pretty. I miss the heft and growly
breath in either the choir or orchestra, which
Atlanta or a German Group would supply.
Remember the emotional wallop which
Kurt Masur and NY Phil supplied after the
9/11 disaster?

Jan. 26 2011 12:43 PM
concetta nardone from Elmont, NY

Wow, the perfect piece of music to commit suicide by.

Jan. 26 2011 12:31 PM
Patricia from New York

I like the sound of the Monteverdi Choir (always have; very clear and with more emotion), but the tempo and weight of Spano's recording I believe conveys the meaning of this movement more effectively, although it is somewhat muddled.

I agree with Antonia that a better clip could have been chosen. I would have chosen the end of the first movement.

Jan. 26 2011 12:06 PM
IG from Scotch Plains, NJ

The only valid method to compare two groups is to hear them live in the same venue with the same conductor. Otherwise, you are running a comparison of the audio engineers and the quality of the reproduction media.

Jan. 26 2011 12:04 PM
Edwina Gaiser-Marchev from Mountain Lakes, NJ

I would appreciate hearing the Monteverdi version ...... I love both. Thanks for Brahms in the afternoon!


Jan. 26 2011 11:59 AM
Franz J Fassbender from TriBeCa NYC

From the comments already made re this topic and the fact that I was leaning heavily in favor of the Monteverdi Choir prior to reading the comments I, too, favor the MONTEVERDI CHOIR edition.

Jan. 26 2011 11:56 AM
Antonia from New York

I voted for the Monteverdi Choir, but I do feel like the selection from the requiem was not necessarily the best show case of what each choir can do. Why was this part selected? If a particular intense part from the piece, like the end of the sixth movement, were chosen I feel like we would have a better chance at really hearing the beauty and musicianship of both choirs. If you like the Brahms Requiem the New Amsterdam Symphony Orchestra and Young New Yorkers Chorus will be performing at Symphony Space in NYC with guest conductor Mathew Oberstein on February 11th and tickets are on sale now:

Jan. 26 2011 11:55 AM
Ronald D. Bruce from Manhattan

My computer was too slow to hear the comparison samples. I hope the voters choose the Atlanta choir so that I can hear whether they lack in vitality and some have suggested.

Jan. 26 2011 11:53 AM
Robert Crockett from Savannah, GA

The Montiverdi Choir is better.

Jan. 26 2011 11:53 AM
Annette from North Bergen, NJ

Monteverdi Choir gets my vote. Just love their sound.

This is a small-box-of-Kleenex piece of music; I get misty when hearing the Requiem. My father was dying when I first heard this piece (Atlanta Symphony recording), and I think of him when hearing it.

Jan. 26 2011 11:53 AM
Adriana from New York

I have the Monteverdi recording. Everytime I hear, it gives me goose bumps!

Jan. 26 2011 11:49 AM
Jeanne from Yonkers, NY

I'm just so glad that choral music is in the spotlight. I understand that classical music stations avoid this genre- but this is a mistaken perception of your audience.
By the way,Atlanta SO and Shaw's RV Williams choral version of Barber's Adagio for Strings will win converts to the '1st art'

Jan. 26 2011 11:49 AM

The distortion in the Spano/ASO recording has been fixed. Our apologies for the glitch.

Jan. 26 2011 11:46 AM
JAN MARCHELLOS from Scotchtown,NY

It's hardly a fair contest. The Atlanta recording was distorted. But the best live performance was this past weekend's Brahm's Requiem performed by Taconic Opera chorus and a local choir. We gave them a standing ovation.

Jan. 26 2011 11:44 AM
Tania from Brooklyn, New York

The Monteverdi recording is far superior in every musical way...either way, just having the opportunity to have WQXR and hear classical musical on the radio everyday is a joy in itself.

Jan. 26 2011 11:42 AM

The recordings are so badly produced that there is no really effective way to compare the performances. Given that, the Moneverdi seems brighter but lacks gravitas.

Jan. 26 2011 11:37 AM
KP from Fanwood, NJ

I would choose the Monteverdi choir's version. It's clear and the words are easily understandable. Unfortunately, the Atlanta Symphony version is so slow and heavy with unclear articulation. Very depressing.

Jan. 26 2011 11:30 AM
Martha Gordon from Wellfleet, MA

In terms of depth and clarity of sound, I endorse the Gardiner recording.

Jan. 26 2011 11:19 AM
Julianne from Brooklyn NY

I could not totally listen to the Atlanta recording because there's a technical problem. Therefore this is not a fair comparison.

Jan. 26 2011 11:15 AM
john Goodwin from Demarest, NJ

I agree with my friend Emily from Weehawken, lets hear the Brits. Besides, when I pledged, you sent me "Shaw, Master of the First Art" and his version is on it.

Jan. 26 2011 11:12 AM
Carol Luparella from Elmwood Park, NJ

I voted for the Monteverdi Choir because I think they sounded clearer and more precise. Whichever recording you play, I am just happy to be able to hear the Brahms Requiem played this afternoon! Thanks.

Jan. 26 2011 11:11 AM
Nina from Sunnyside

Neither snippet was actually long enough, but based on what I could hear I found the British choir's tempo a little too brisk -- though it's true they were more transparent and clearer, while the Atlanta chorus sounded a little gummy.

Jan. 26 2011 11:10 AM
Michael Meltzer

It has nothing to do with British. If John Eliot Gardiner was conducting Eskimos you'd still get a good Brahms Requiem.

Jan. 26 2011 11:06 AM
JJC from Stresa, Italy

I prefer Monteverdi for diction as well as
orchestral richness.

Jan. 26 2011 11:03 AM
buddy from Manhattan

The Monteverdi recording is far superior in every musical way but that does not mean the Atlanta recording is bad -- it surely is not. It's sort of like asking which do you likke better - blueberry or apple pie.

Jan. 26 2011 11:01 AM
Earl B. from St. Louis

Senior moment there - oops. Shaw is so firmly embedded in mind that the Atlanta ties in automatically. But the comment on English choral technique is as firmly embedded, though not apparent in these little samples. Clarity of the German? The Monteverdi is clearly better . . . From the samples, it's clearly - a tossup.

Jan. 26 2011 10:42 AM
Louise Naples from Woodhaven, NY

OMG Robert Shaw, (and his Atlanta ensembles) was the best choral directer and teacher. I will never forget his Mahler 8th at Carnegie Hall. Such precision, clarity and passion. Look forward to hearing his Brahms this afternoon.
L. Naples

Jan. 26 2011 10:42 AM
Emily Mikulewicz from Weehawken, N.J

I hate for this to become a jingoistic contest. I'm not disparaging music making in America, voting for the English chorus. They just take my soul right to heaven, and that seems to be their way routinely

Jan. 26 2011 10:32 AM
Steve from Nebraska

I find the Monteverdi choir is much richer in tone and pleasing to me.

Jan. 26 2011 10:24 AM
Norman from Rockville Centre

The Monteverdi Choir was recently ranked the best in Gramophone. The English choral tradition is unsurpassed with its roots in the liturgy of the Anglican Church and of couse Handel, who surprisingly was left off the list of the 10 greatest composers, selected by A.Tommasini. John Eliot Gardiner is a superb perfectionist conductor.

Jan. 26 2011 10:22 AM
Earl B. from St. Louis

From these two little samples, the Monteverdi is more stylishly recorded - tight, indeed crisp - but I'll stick with Shaw any day, having admired his choral technique since first hearing him in the forties. English groups have this little tendency toward the hooty . . . which, of course, was not evident in these samples. Still . . . Shaw.

Jan. 26 2011 10:22 AM
Abigail from Brooklyn, NY

Based on this clip, the Monteverdi Choir is a clear winner. The Atlanta SO version was pretty (it's hard to go wrong with this piece), but a little slow and careful. After listening to them, the Monteverdi Choir really jumped out at me in terms of dynamics, passion, and vigor. Either way, I would happily listen to both!

Jan. 26 2011 10:20 AM
Pam from Israel

Monteverdi sounds "cleaner"

Jan. 26 2011 10:17 AM
lum 14d from NYC

The exercise here has problems having nothing to do with the chorus. The atlanta recording is lousy technically, and the difference in tempo exaggerates this.

Jan. 26 2011 10:09 AM
Jim from Staten Island NY

The Brahms is one of my all-time favorites
and I have heard and attended many performances but the one that remains in
my memory is Bruno Walter at the Metropolitan Opera House (the original!) back in the 1950's. Soul stirring and magnificent!!!

Jan. 26 2011 10:07 AM
Phyllis Sharpe

I vote for the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and Chorus. Any legacy of Robert Shaw gets my vote.

Jan. 26 2011 10:01 AM
Jonathan Gonzalez from Springfield, NJ

Being a choral singer I really wanted to Love the Atlanta Recording but as with everyone else the Monteverdi Choir is hands down a much better choice.

Jan. 26 2011 10:01 AM
Tim Brown from Washington, DC

The Monteverdi choir in this comparison is crisper, and a bit quicker, and gets my vote.

Jan. 26 2011 09:50 AM
yaakov from NYC

The Monteverdi is dynamic, uplifting; the Atlanta is plodding, boring. Gardner, as always, is a genius.

Jan. 26 2011 09:44 AM
slmnyc from New York

I really wanted to like Atlanta better but based on these two recordings I have to go with Monteverdi.

Jan. 26 2011 09:27 AM

I prefer the Monteverdi for some of the same reasons already mentioned. Nice to hear the two versions side by side. You really can hear the difference.

Jan. 26 2011 09:11 AM
Donna Jeanne Turnell from Englewood, NJ

Brahms meant the Requiem to be ":hopeful and uplifting", not solemn!!! No one does it like the Robert Shaw trained choirs, especially the Atlanta Chorus. There was no contest here for me!!

Jan. 26 2011 09:10 AM
No-j from EO, NJ

Atlanta Symphony recording was flawed, but I heard enough to choose Monteverdi. Monteverdi had the solemnity without the vocal heaviness of the Atlanta choir. Crisper, cleaner enunciation than Atlanta.

Jan. 26 2011 09:06 AM
Betty from New Jersey

I am glad of more choral music, but I guess you can't please all the people all the time. I think the Monteverdi recording was better, but I am voting for Atlanta anyway!

Jan. 26 2011 09:06 AM
Tanina from NYC

The Monteverdi Choir sings with more emotion and energy. The Atlanta Symphony Orchestra just sounds plain.

Jan. 26 2011 08:57 AM
Anna from USA, NJ

I chose Monterverdi. Their recording was so much more solemn and fitting to a reqium.

Jan. 26 2011 08:36 AM
bayadere from not in manhattan anymore

Frankly, I'd rather not listen to choral music at all, but that wasn't an option.

Jan. 26 2011 08:19 AM
johannes from Freiburg, Germany

trying to listen to the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra/Chorus I found a distortion in the recording (after about 40 s.) Even if there was no distortion I like the recording of the Monteverdi Choir better. Different to the Atlanta Symphony Chorus I actually recognize the german words they are singing ;-)

Jan. 26 2011 07:46 AM

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