UTAH CHAMBER ARTISTS, Ein deutsches Requiem, Libby Gardner Concert Hall, University of Utah, Feb. 24
One of the major choral works of the 19th century, Johannes Brahms’ Ein deutsches Requiem is a poignant memorial to the composer’s mother. It’s a reflective, inward looking work that draws its strength from its comforting tone rather than the histrionics that drives another great 19th century choral work, Giuseppe Verdi’s Requiem.
Barlow Bradford and the Utah Chamber Artists gave a deeply moving performance of Brahms’ requiem Monday that probed the work’s emotional depth and spirituality. It was at times an understated reading that was quite effective. Bradford drew out a nuanced interpretation that captured the score’s rich palette of expressions. It was a sincere, heartfelt and poignant performance that was powerful in its impact.
The UCA choir was joined by the University of Utah Chamber Choir. The combined choral forces were wonderfully blended in sound. They sang with resonant voices and clearly defined articulation. They brought a warmth to their singing that underscored the spiritual character and eloquence of the work compellingly.
Baritone Michael Chipman and soprano Celena Shafer sang their solos with feeling and richly modulated expressions. Chipman’s account of “Herr, lehre doch mich” was beautifully expressed and emotionally charged. Shafer’s reading of “Ihr habt nun Traurigkeit” was lyrical and fluid.
The UCA orchestra, consisting mainly of members taken from the Utah Symphony, was expanded for this performance by additional players from the symphony as well as local freelancers. They played with gorgeously crafted expressions and finely molded lyricism. And Bradford achieved a wonderful balance between the orchestra and chorus, not always an easy accomplishment with Libby Gardner’s tricky acoustics.
This was the first time Bradford and the UCA have performed the Brahms requiem. But hearing them Monday one would never have guessed that this was a premiere for them. They showed unequivocally that they own this work.