TSO Gives Substance to Brahms Requiem Redux

Arthur Kaptainis, ludwig van Toronto

Brahms German Requiem: Toronto Symphony Orchestra and the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir;  Erin Wall (soprano), Russell Braun (baritone), Peter Oundjian (conductor) at Roy Thomson Hall — Wednesday, Sept. 27. (repeats Thursday, Sept. 28, and Saturday, Sept. 30)

Peter Oundjian brought Ein deutsches Requiem back to the stage of Roy Thomson Hall after only four years and a bit, possibly because the conductor felt he had something more to say about Brahms’s choral masterpiece. And so he did Wednesday in the first of three Toronto Symphony Orchestra performances with Toronto Mendelssohn Choir.

The latter ensemble of about 130 as prepared by Noel Edison furnished what a devout listener might call a firm foundation, confidently projected yet carefully balanced. The Mendelssohnians are about three-fifths female, and generally sound it, but there was no difficulty in hearing the gentlemen in Brahms’s fugues, which came across as urgent and stirring rather than academic. Words were admirably clear.

Seriously understated in 2013, Oundjian added more substance to the sonic blend on this occasion and pressed Brahms’s prevailingly moderate tempos gently forward rather than holding them back. Not that this 73-minute performance was hasty or lacking in apocalyptic drama in the sixth movement, which earned some understandable intrusive applause. The dead are not raised incorruptible every day.

Read the full review here.