Ein Deutsches Requiem (Harper/Shirley-Quirk/Previn, LSO)
Among Schumann's projects was “A German Requiem”. So guess who read through his posthumous papers, in the intervals of comforting those that mourned. But was it wise of Brahms to convert Christian texts to his own religion of Schumannism? In a sceptic's Requiem, even the hearse has borrowed plumes. No wonder Shaw declared that only the corpse could endure it with patience. But the eyes of both might have been opened by the rousing rendering heard on May 24 at the Fairfield Halls from André Previn with the LSO and chorus. German or not, this Requiem was wholly human, embodying Brahms's own experience of the mystery: and terror of death, and his own special need for' maternal comfort and love. Those contrasts are entrusted to the soloists; John Shirley-Quirk and Heather Harper expressed them finely. For the rest, the hedonistic sermon on death and love (if flesh is grass, let's make hay) was fittingly at its most compelling in “Denn alles Fleisch”, where the shattering climaxes of the funeral march were relieved by blissful strains amazingly evocative of the Liebeslieder.
The concert began with Mendelssohn, whose childhood portrait, with its sensitive and vulnerable features, graced Brahms's writing-desk for many a year. Similar features were disclosed in Murray Perahia s account of the First Piano Concerto; the delicately contoured shading of piano and strings in the last movement was an especially speaking likeness. Ali in all it was a memorable evening for Croydon. I can attest that few names are more respected in these provinces than Previn's is - for his musicianship, not his TV charisma, though that is no doubt not unrelated to his great gift for making music alive with personality and presence.
The Musical Times, July 1975 (p. 641) © the estate of eric sams