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It was a dark, drippy morning. Cable news was telling me that things were massively embarrassing, nonsensical, and other-worldly. Let’s face it. It was not the best of mornings.
But on that morning, I decided to give a complete listen to a recent DSD discovery:
Bart Schneemann, Radio Chamber Orchestra, De Vriend
Ludwig August LeBrun (1752-1790) was something of a musical superstar in the time from when he was a teenager. All students of the Oboe know and celebrate LeBrun as someone who could really make some serious music with that funny, long instrument. Because no one was writing music which could show off his amazing abilities, he wrote his own– including the 3rd, 5th, and 6th Oboe Concertos on this album. Bart Schneemann is the soloist here, backed by Jan Willem De Vriend conducting the Radio Chamber Orchestra.
After a very few minutes I was completely drawn in by the first movement of the 3rd Concerto. Suddenly my room was full of sunshine, and I could breathe again! The music is sunny and sweet, Bart Schneemann and his backers are playing superbly, and the recording quality couldn’t be better– either stereo or multi-channel. I was totally involved for over 70 minutes of complete pleasure.
Along with the concertos is a reconstructed single movement of a long-missing Beethoven Oboe Concerto. How accurate is the reconstruction? Who knows! But it fits beautifully with the LeBrun concertos.
Even if you are not normally drawn to music from this era, I encourage you to listen to the excerpts. And by the way, I listened to the whole thing again an hour later! And loved it all over again!
Next, some Brahms!
Pieter Wispelwey and Dejan Lazic make magic together with this album of three cello/piano sonatas. This program is especially interesting because of the time spread. The E minor Opus 38 is from 1868 when Brahms was 32. (By the way, am I the only one who thinks pictures of the younger Brahms resemble Stephen Stills? How’s that for a subject change!)
Dejan Lazic, Pieter Wispelwey
Next we move forward a decade or so to Opus 78, which is actually his First Violin Sonata in G, in an arrangement for cello by Brahms himself. This is incredibly beautiful music– exquisite melodies.
Finally we jump ahead to 1894 and Pieter Wispelwey’s own arrangement of Opus 120, Sonata for Clarinet (which also had an alternate version for violin).
Early, middle, and late Brahms— with different feelings. This may not be music for brightening a morning. I think it’s more like music for remembering people you love on quiet evenings. But that’s just me. The Vivace, the final movement, is bright and hopeful.
Here we have two world-class musicians doing what they do best, captured beautifully by the Channel Classics team. Take a listen!
But wait, there’s more Brahms:
I don’t think there are many finer works for Orchestra, Chorus, and soloists than the Brahms German Requiem. As of this writing there are three fine DSD recordings available from NativeDSD.
Ok— which one of these is best? Silly question! If recording quality is paramount to you, then one might outshine the others. If you like the chorus to be up front, and clear, you might prefer another. If you find a soloist annoying in one version, that could be a deciding factor. Perhaps something about the conductor bothers you. Sometimes prejudices are hard to overcome.
So…. which one?
Ok —- I love De Vriend’s Beethoven. Is his the best German Requiem? It’s beautifully recorded. Tempos are often a bit more brisk than the others, but there is a bit less of a “Romantic” feel.
Residentieorkest, De Vriend
But then there’s Gergiev with the LSO— A difficult recording venue, but the chorus is almost ethereal, and it’s a performance of great power! The orchestra and choir sound dramatic and huge!
London Symphony Orchestra, Gergiev
But what about the Janowski on Pentatone? It’s magnificently recorded. Everything is in balance and pacing is similar to Gergiev. It’s a performance to be proud of.
Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin, Rundfunkchor Berlin, Janowski
The fact is, I don’t think you can go wrong with any of them. Just when I think one is the best, I find one of the others seeming to displace it. And then I listen again to the third and it seems the best overall.
Overall, I think the one that I will listen to most is probably the Gergiev. He brings an operatic touch to it that I find thrilling — especially with the chorus.
Only you can decide. Of course I have a number of older recordings too. Lavine, Ansermet, Sinopoli, and others. The Klemperer is probably my reference. But as I get older and have more recordings, I tend not to have “favorites” as much as I once did. Each conductor will bring his or her own feelings, and I want to hear them.