City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

EIF 2013: Brahms Requiem Review

By Iain Gilmour - Posted on 29 August 2013

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The Usher Hall
Tonhalle Orchestra
Running time: 
Brahms, Ein deutsches Requiem
Tonhalle Orchestra, conductor David Zinman; Edinburgh Festival Chorus, chorus master Christopher Bell; Rachel Harnisch, soprano & Florian Bosch, baritone

“Requiem” is a rather misleading title for this massive orchestral and choral work: “Sacred Concert”, the title of the premiere of the first six movements is more accurate.

Unlike the traditional Mass for the Dead, ending with a Day of Judgment, Brahms ends with hope –“Death, where is thy sting? Hell, where is thy victory?” leading in to the assertion “Blessed are the dead”. Ignoring liturgy, Brahms chose a text drawn entirely from the Bible, ranging from the Psalms to Revelations.

Requiem, at 80 minutes, is Brahms longest work and arguably the most substantial. The superlative Tonhalle Orchestra and the 140 strong Edinburgh Festival combined to give a memorable night to remember.

The two soloists had comparatively small but important parts. In his first entry, baritone Florian Bosch sang of the futility of amassing earthly riches, pleadingly asked what awaited and put his hope in Gods. An answer came from the Chorus: – “The souls of the righteous are in the hands of God”, untouched by torment.

Rachel Harnisch touched the heartstrings, expressing the comforts of mother love and certain resurrection. In her only entry, she sang beautifully and movingly in a section added by Brahms after the sacred concert.

In his second entry Boesch sang forcefully of the mystery to come before the chorus blasted out the Last Trump. David Zinman was swift and fluent in his conducting, ensuring precise response from the players.

But, from the low opening rumbles of the Usher Hall organ to the resounding finale, the Festival Chorus was the principal ingredient of an unforgettable mixture that enthralled a packed, highly enthusiastic, Usher Hall.

Event: Monday 26 August at 8 pm