As religious works go, Brahms’ Ein Deutsches Requiem has come down to us more or less as the composer intended it – as a source of comfort to the living as they come to terms with loss. It’s an arm around the shoulder, a warm hug, an empathetic look that acknowledges the pain of grief and offers precious words of consolation.
Perhaps then it is no surprise that the over-riding sensation of hearing its performance is the sheer humanity of the piece. God is in the house, of course, but it’s the human response to death – that most elemental aspect of life – that occupies us here.
Under the authoritative baton of Simon Halsey, this is an elegant and purposeful rendering that invites the audience to digest and assimilate its thoughts on each moment before moving on, the warmth of the performance embracing the audience to the extent that even in the more overtly funereal sections it remains reassuringly temperate.
In bringing their characteristic energy and understanding to bear Bournemouth Symphony Chorus serve Brahms admirably well, but never more powerfully than in the exhilarating fourth movement, which is a joy to behold.
Both soloists are equally superb – soprano Sarah Tynan’s sophisticated and affecting solo in the tender fifth movement emphasising the ultimately personal nature of bereavement; while David Soar’s euphonious bass is both thoughtful and uplifting in the dramatic sixth.
In contrast to the existential nuances of Brahms’s choral showpiece, the programme opens with the teenage Mozart’s coruscating Exsultate Jubilate motet in which he articulates the unfettered joy of a soul released from doubt by prayer. It’s beautifully crafted with no room for prevarication as Halsey steers the orchestra in generous support of Sarah Tynan’s graceful, emphatic delivery, particularly in a breath-taking Alleluia.