To begin with, let me state that I I have heard the German Requiem before; however, I was not aware that I had heard it. Being in choir and music theory with a very awesome high school choral director made me realize that I do know more classical music that I realized I did.
I know my thoughts seem a bit haphazard, so forgive me. And if anything needs clarification, please ask. I want to be as clear as possible, but I understand that I have a tendency to write/speak like everyone knows what is going through my head.
And now the Brahms!
I first listened to Blomstedt version. Honestly, I can't understand what the people are saying. The diction isn't the clearest. (That could just be because I don't know German and I am listening with my very American ears) I like the orchestra in this one. It sounds fuller. The emotion is there in both the singers and the musicians (don't yell at me for saying that singers aren't musicians... I just wanted to show a difference. Should have used instrumentalists) Everyone involved seems to embody what Brahms wanted to convey. It *sounds* like a requiem. The singers seem to understand the German, (perhaps they are?) and the instrumentalists seem to channel Brahms with the swells and the chords blending so well with the voices. There is no one person or instrument overpowering the others. There is a balance here that I did not find with the other two versions.
Abbado's version: Gah!. Is it just the quality of the recording, or what? This version made me dislike the music. The orchestra over powers the singers and I couldn't even tell that there were words being sung. The orchestra itself seems muddled too. The diction sucked. But all of my qualms could be all issues of the recording. Honestly, I would cry if I heard this in person. It seems so dull, like the performers were only involved because they were getting paid, and not because of their passion for/of the piece. After listening to this version about three times, I wanted to never listen to the requiem again.
Then came the NYC version. *sigh of relief* So I can enjoy the full Requiem and not want to scream at the quality. I could understand the words, but it sounded like Americans singing German. There wasn't the accent(?), feel of the words in the mouth(?) that the Blomstedt version had. But the clarity of the words helped me understand the phrasing more. I heard the relationship between the words and the musical phrasing more in this version, because I could follow along to the words. The singers seem to over power the orchestra here. I want a balance when there is a choir along with an orchestra. I listen to these choirs/orchestras because I like to hear how things blend. (Maybe this is just my choir background, but I can't stand it when people and instruments don't blend with each other. It gets under my skin) Another thing that I dislike about this version is that it sounds very American. The other versions sounded European to me, and made listening to them a bit more enjoyable. I'm not saying that I disliked this version. I like it a lot, and wish to buy it for myself one day, but i wish it didn't sound so American.
I really enjoy the Blomstedt version a lot. I have been listening to that version on repeat since I started typing this entry. I wish there was more of it.
My overall reaction to the Brahms isn't the greatest, however. I have high standards when it comes to choral music. If the choir/orchestra can give me shivers up and down my spine, then I know it somehow resonated within the very being of my soul. This happens when I listen to a good version of Beethoven's 9th. It didn't happen here. But I enjoy it and I can appreciate it as a work of art. Maybe when I loose a loved one, then I can come back to this and feel the shivers up and down my spine. But until then, I'll listen with a lot of appreciation and heart.