Monday, March 14, 2011

Brahms' Requiem

The Michael O’Neal Singers and a chamber orchestra performed Brahms' “Ein Deutches Requiem” ( at the Roswell United Methodist Church.  It was fortuitous that this most beautiful piece of music was played on the heels of the tragedy in Japan.  I was deeply moved by this truly awesome music in the context of this awesome tragedy. 

Brahms' Requiem was written for the living- to bring strength and reassurance.  It does not talk about sin or the anger and wrath of a distant god, but rather it focuses on goodness, love, hope and comfort for a loved one’s loved ones.  Brahms had a tremendous capacity to write beautiful themes and develop them into great symphonic music.  In the beginning of the second section (from 1 Peter 1:24), Brahms created a four note theme that is achingly beautiful.  It is so sad yet gentle and loving. 

The Roswell Church has a cavernous auditorium that has a surprisingly long decay time.   The echo it creates was startling.  The O’Neal singers were excellent and O’Neal himself was once a member of the legendary Robert Shaw, who led the ASO for years.  The chamber-sized orchestra seemed a bit lost in the acoustical space, and the tympani had a “thunk” sound that was a tad jarring.  Many of the players were from the ASO.  Brahms frequently wrote melodies for the reeds and French Horns to play together, and the horns acquitted themselves beautifully, which sometimes, they do not for the ASO. 

There were two soloists, Jana Young, soprano, and John LaForge, Bass-Baritone.  I was a bit put off to see that the singers were mic’d, but I guess it might have been necessary in the acoustics of the hall.  Lafarge has a powerful voice and he sang powerfully.  Ms. Young, however, is past her singing prime.  Her voice was thin and shrill, at times. 

This music is sublime and heartfelt.  The performance deserved the standing O that it received. 

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