Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

A Consoling 'German Requiem' from Stutzmann and the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

A Consoling 'German Requiem' from Stutzmann and the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra

Article excerpt

This weekend's concerts by the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra at Powell Hall featured a masterpiece of the choral repertoire, "Ein deutsches Requiem (A German Requiem)" by Johannes Brahms.

There are many requiems in the repertoire, most using the traditional Roman Catholic religious texts for a Mass for the dead. Many feature dramatic presentations of the "Dies irae (Day of wrath)." The comforting "German Requiem" doesn't use those words.

Instead, Brahms (1833-1897) chose his own texts for his requiem from Martin Luther's translation of the Bible and wrote music of consummate grace to accompany them. Drawn from both the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament, they counsel hope and patience.

Wisely, the SLSO brought in Nathalie Stutzmann to lead this essential piece. Stutzmann, an internationally renowned contralto, has built a second career as a conductor; she made her debut here as a substitute three years ago. This was a welcome return.

Inhabiting the score completely, Stutzmann stayed with her singers throughout; the phrasing was ideal, as was the balance between orchestral and choral musicians. Stutzmann is intense, clear and easy to follow; she understands every measure of this piece, from the opening "Blessed are they that mourn" through the tenderness and triumph of the second to the finale, "Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord ... that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them."

Amy Kaiser's St. Louis Symphony Chorus was well-prepared and together, singing beautifully with only a few minor glitches throughout a long work that doesn't give them more than a few measures off. …

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