Royal Liverpool Philharmonic/Flor [Ein deutsches Requiem … Inger Dam-Jensen sings Schubert & Brahms]

Suleika II, D717; Du bist die Ruh, D776; Alinde, D904
Wir wandelten, Op.96/2; Geheimnis, Op.71/3; Sommerabend, Op.85/1; Wie Melodien zieht es, Op.105/1; Wiegenlied, Op.49/4
Ein deutsches Requiem, Op.45

Inger Dam-Jensen (soprano) & Ulrich Staerk (piano) [Lieder]

Inger Dam-Jensen (soprano) & Gerd Grochowski (baritone) [Requiem]

Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Choir

Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra
Claus Peter Flor

Reviewed by: Glyn Môn Hughes

Reviewed: 10 March, 2011
Venue: Philharmonic Hall, Liverpool

Claus Peter Flor. Photograph:  Shawn NorthcuttIt is a bit of a problem knowing what to programme with Brahms’s “Ein deutsches Requiem”. Last time your reviewer heard the piece in Liverpool, it was in the cavernous depths of the Anglican Cathedral with its massive and musically confusing echo reducing the work to inaudible mush. It was a relief to get away. The latest performance was a total reverse: in the dry, unforgiving acoustic of Philharmonic Hall. But still the problem persists: what to do in the first half, since the piece is too short to programme on its own. The result was something of an odd fusion of song-recital coupled with full-blown choral work.

Inger Dam-Jensen, making her first return to Liverpool after a gap of 16 years (and her last concert was in the said cathedral), performed a fairly random selection of songs by Brahms and Schubert, accompanied expertly and highly sensitively by Ulrich Staerk. She began with ‘Suleika II’ which was urgent and lively from the outset, collapsing into a beautiful repose at the end, a perfect preparation for a sublime rendering of ‘Du bist die Ruh’. The highpoint of these Schubert settings was ‘Alinde’ – gentle and with just the right hint of comedy and the sombre shadow of tragedy. The Brahms songs displayed a wide range of the composer’s talent, ending with the familiar ‘Wiegenlied’. Most memorable, though, was ‘Sommerabend’ – a magical setting performed with an aura of hushed reverence. Right through, Dam-Jensen’s diction was first-class, every word rounded and perfectly audible.

The Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Choir was called upon to provide most of the drama in Brahms’s “A German Requiem”. It’s not an easy work to bring off successfully since it’s got everything – from long, slow, almost-inaudible whispers to blood-curdling fortissimos. They chorus opened with an excellent pianissimo which built through a slow and sustained crescendo to a powerful climax. Claus Peter Flor, making his Liverpool début, went for a rather stylised second movement, accentuating the staccato string chords if teasing out some sensitive sounds to accompany this quite elaborate setting. The powerful ‘Behold all flesh is as the grass’ movement was quite emotionally draining, with Flor pulling the tempo around to achieve maximum impact, something he also did in a nicely balanced interpretation of ‘How lovely are thy dwellings’. Gerd Grochowski, also making his Liverpool debut, had a rather thin voice which was somewhat lost in its lower registers. Just occasionally choir and orchestra parted company, and almost always in fugal writing, in a performance that might not rank amongst the most memorable but was pleasing overall.

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