Music review: Tonhalle Orchestra Zurich
Edinburgh International Festival Scotsman review: Tonhalle Orchestra Zurich at the Usher Hall, reviewed by Susan Nickalls
Although Brahms’s Ein Deutsches Requiem (German Requiem) is set to Biblical texts, unlike other requiems it is non-liturgical, and this more human approach to death and sorrow is extraordinarily uplifting.
A modest, low-key figure on the podium, conductor David Zinman skilfully kept the momentum going as he steered the fabulous Tonhalle Orchestra and the 140-strong Edinburgh Festival Chorus through this 85-minute work. It is the chorus that performs the best part of the seven-part requiem and chorus master Christopher Bell has clearly worked them hard.
But while they impressed with quiet reverential hushes, some of the more passionate sections sounded a bit thin along the top soprano lines.
Brahms uses his soloists sparingly, but well. Baritone Florian Boesch’s contributions in the choral fugue of movement three and the “Behold, I show you a mystery” revelations of six were spine-tingling.
The fifth section from the mother’s point of view “Ye now therefore have sorrow” was written by Brahms after the premiere, but it is the jewel at the heart of the requiem that unifies the whole. This is the only section for soprano and Rachel Harnisch made the most of it with her beautifully controlled and expressive interpretation.
Originally published in The Scotsman