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My thoughts and words on Brahms - How to Think Like Leonardo da Vinci

About My thoughts and words on Brahms

Previous Entry My thoughts and words on Brahms Jul. 10th, 2004 @ 02:10 pm Next Entry
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.
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Date:July 11th, 2004 09:38 pm (UTC)
I feel similarly about the recordings: I by far and away prefer the NYC performance. However, as a neophyte to classical music, I couldn't really tell if the muddiness was an aspect of the performance, or an artifact of a recording. Additionally, I felt guilty that the NYC recording has a more energetic tempo; I wondered if I was just preferring a more lively approach, and couldn't really disentangle that consideration from the other characteristics of the recordings.
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Date:July 12th, 2004 06:18 am (UTC)
I personally think it is hard to tell what is a recording issue and what is a performance issue anyways. Unless you were there at the original performance, or know that you have a crappy recording, there is no way to tell.

Why do you feel guilty about the lively approach? I like the NYC version a lot, especially when I first heard it. But the more I listened to that and the other versions, I heard the little things.

Don't worry about being a neophyte. When I started listening to classical music, (or anything new at all) I just keep it on repeat for hours at a time while I go about my room. This way I absorb the music. When I feel ready that I have an opinion other than "EEEWWW that sucks." or "OHMYGOD that is the best thing in the world." I sit down at my computer and type out my thoughts while listening. This time a bit closer. This works for me, and I think everyone should try it at least once. Then again, I can be Obsessive compulsive, with my music. (:
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Date:July 12th, 2004 10:34 pm (UTC)
I actually use a similar approach to music. I'm so awful at grasping music -- especially lyrics -- that it takes a good deal of concentration on my part to grasp it. I also have to absorb the music, rather than simply "listen".

I've been absorbing this particular assignment, and hope to have some of my thoughts fleshed out soon.
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Date:July 25th, 2004 10:21 am (UTC)
Well, there are definitely acoustic characteristics that you can distinguish; I'd trust the orchestras to be able to produce clear notes, for example, so if the sound is muddy, chances are it's a recording issue.

I felt guilt on the liveliness matter because, generally, more lively entertainment is easier to latch on to (the extreme case being commercials and how they can capture your attention). As far as I knew, the NYC recording was an Emeril-like "let's kick it up a notch," that is, cras, while the others were at the tempo the music actually called for.

To listen to and compare the performances, I starting by listening to one part of the requiem in one performance, over and over, then would switch to another performance; this let me immediately hear distinctions. I then started listening to the whole thing. iPod + repeat.
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Date:July 25th, 2004 11:41 am (UTC)
As far as I knew, the NYC recording was an Emeril-like "let's kick it up a notch," that is, cras, while the others were at the tempo the music actually called for.

That's what I guess I meant when I said it was very American sounding. I feel guilty about liking that version too, but it isn't my favorite. For now I guess I'll just have to deal with listening to these versions until I get the chance to see/hear it performed live.
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