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Cat. No. CHAN 10215 Price: £10.5 No. of discs: 1
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CHAN 10215 - Brahms: Choral Works, Vol. 3
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Available From: 14 June 2004
Though Goethe called Rinaldo a ‘ballad’, it is a dramatic scena written explicitly for musical setting, and develops an episode from Tasso’s magico-fantastical epic of the Crusades, Gerusalemme liberata (1581). The paladin Rinaldo, bewitched by the enchantress Armida, has abandoned the siege of Jerusalem to languish on her magical island. His fellow-knights have followed him there and implore him to return to the Crusade. The poem dramatises how they break down the hero’s dream of love and indolence on the enchanted isle, and win his reluctant acquiescence. The seemingly episodic form lends Brahms’s cantata the character of an extended series of songs. The form is balanced at either end by the impressive orchestral prelude and the magnificent concluding chorus which is the work’s crowning glory.

The text for Brahms’s Alto Rhapsody is three stanzas extracted from Goethe’s poem Harzreise im Winter, about a young man mentally unbalanced by grief who seeks solitude in the wilderness. Brahms was rightly proud of the work’s compactness of expression, sombre beauty and discreet textural complexities.

Brahms’s last choral work with orchestra is seldom performed, possibly because it lacks even the ambiguous hint of comfort that ends his Hölderlin setting of the Schicksalslied. The text is taken from the monologue of the Priestess in Goethe’s drama Iphigenie auf Tauris. It is likely that Brahms set this story of the arbitrary judgements of indifferent gods in response to a series of personal tragedies, not least the loss of various members of the Schumann family to whom he was very close. The work is one of his most powerful, compressed and monumental expressions of tragic grandeur.
Reviews

'And in the deeply pessimistic 1882 Song of the Fates, for six-part mixed chorus and large orchestra, Albrecht's urgent direction, the quality of the singing and playing and an excellent recording combine to make a powerful impression.'
BBC Music Magazine

The Alto Rhapsody, best known of the works on this disc, reveals Brahms at his most inspired. Many great contraltos and mezzo-sopranos have left their personal, individual accents on its solo part' Even in such company, Anna Larson acquits herself with distinction in a fine modern performance
International Record Review

 

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