The newest recording from the Choir of King’s College London (Joseph Fort, director), titled ‘An English Requiem’, revives the first English setting of Ein Deutsches Requiem by Johannes Brahms, as it would have been performed in nineteenth-century Britain.
Since its London premiere in 1871, Brahms’s Requiem has enjoyed immense popularity in Britain, in both its orchestral and chamber versions. But the setting we know today is not the one that nineteenth-century British audiences knew and loved. They would have been unlikely to have heard the work performed in German; rather, it was almost always sung in an English translation, which the writer G. A. Macfarren even christened ‘An English Requiem’ in 1873.
This is the first recording of the nineteenth-century English setting in which the Requiem was known by its earliest British audiences. Just as at the 1871 London premiere, the choir here is accompanied by piano duet instead of orchestra, with dynamic pianists James Baillieu and Richard Uttley performing this role. Soprano Mary Bevan and baritone Marcus Farnsworth complete the stellar cast of young soloists.
This recording is not just a revival of a nineteenth-century artefact; it should also make its listeners think. For listeners and critics today who are used to mainstream recordings of this piece sung in German by a massed chorus with full orchestral accompaniment, hearing the Requiem sung in English with piano accompaniment will certainly feel strange. But this strangeness is merely a result of an inflexible performance culture today that prioritises a single, ‘ideal’ version of a piece over its arrangements.
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|1 ||Blessed are they that mourn ||[9:17] |
|2 ||Behold, all flesh is as the grass ||[13:50] |
|3 ||Lord, make me to know the measure of my days ||[10:00] |
|4 ||How lovely is Thy dwelling place ||[5:00] |
|5 ||Ye now are sorrowful ||[6:03] |
|6 ||Here on earth have we no continuing place ||[11:47] |
|7 ||Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord ||[9:15] |
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Total playing time: [65:18]