From Bremen to Toledo | Culture


It is difficult to find parallels between the Hanseatic Bremen and the Castilian Toledo, both separated by so many things. Nor are there many similarities between its two cathedrals, Lutheran and dedicated to San Pedro the German, and Catholic and dedicated to Santa Maria the Spanish, although one and the other do share having commemorated this year the sesquicenteario of the premiere of A German requiem from Brahms in the first under the direction of the composer himself. In Bremen it was possible to hear the exact day of the anniversary, on April 10, while here it has just been performed at the El Greco festival in Toledo, preceded by an intense rain that, for a few hours, brought it closer to the northern German city .

Brahms confessed that he would have gladly replaced the adjective "German" with "human" in the title of his work, although he flatly refused to provide an alternative Latin text as requested by his editor, who hoped to increase sales that seemed if not circumscribed only to Protestant and German-speaking territories. It was Brahms who personally selected the texts, of the Old and New Testaments, and his music is inseparable from the German translation of the Bible of Luther, one of his reference writers, to which he would return significantly at the end of his life in what he can taken as his farewell to the world, his Four serious chants, a very personal preparation for what I sensed as an increasingly closer death.

Unfortunately, the hand program distributed to the public that filled the cathedral did not include the sung texts (neither original nor translation), essential to understand the work. And, at the beginning, a very unfortunate speech spoken of, presumably, a member of the cathedral chapter not only did not shed any light on the matter, but rather entangled and distorted it unnecessarily. Luckily, the important thing did not fail and the interpretation of Brahms' masterpiece reached very high levels of excellence, as a result of the excellent tuning that, over and over again, in any repertoires, show Ivor Bolton and the Choir and the Orchestra Headlines of the Teatro Real.

Bolton's experience and good ear made him accommodate his version to the acoustics of the cathedral, as problematic as the one that Paavo Järvi had to suffer in Bremen. The cathedrals are portentous architectures, but they are little friends of other musics that are not composed specifically with some of their constituent elements in mind (the choir, the organ). The one of Toledo has welcomed authentic luminaries of the polyphony, for example (Cristóbal de Morales, Alonso Lobo), but it agrees badly with a symphonic orchestra and a nourished nineteenth-century choir, which are the forces required by Brahms in his score. The reverberation times are very long and, silenced voices and instruments, the sound continues to travel through their ships: "Only the Sound Remains", By mimicking the title of the opera by Kaija Saariaho that Bolton himself directs these days at the Teatro Real. Instrumentalists and singers are silent, but the sound remains.

Ivor Bolton and, to his left, the soprano Elena Copons.
Ivor Bolton and, to his left, the soprano Elena Copons.

Bolton was attentive to this and could only speak of confusion and blurring in the two major leaks of the third and sixth movements. Where polyphony becomes denser, the dynamics and tempi they accelerate, the reverberation becomes uncontrollable and it is impossible to achieve the transparency demanded by the imitative counterpoint. The first movement, however, without the presence of the violins, was a paragon of clarity and delicacy, as happened largely in the fifth, in which the string has to play with mute and that had a splendid intervention of the soprano Elena Copons, perfect in phrasing, safe in the highs and with a magnificent German diction. The soprano here symbolizes the mother of Brahms, the ultimate recipient of this long funeral reflection (calling it the mass of the dead is clearly inadequate), and the chorus that supports it at various times represents the healing power of music, the only one capable of comforting us "as a mother ", and the choice of this text of Isaiah by Brahms says much about his conception of music as the greatest relief for the pain left by the death of our loved ones.

Baritone Michael Kupfer-Radecky also sang very well and in good style, although the high notes were somewhat strained in his second intervention. The greatest accolades should be, however, for orchestra and chorus. The first is undoubtedly not the best pit group in our country, but one of its very first symphonic formations, if not the tip of all of them and the most versatile. Excellence tends to lead it, and this has happened again in Toledo, its section of wood, always exemplary, but metal and rope are not far behind. And the choir has had a great opportunity here to show off, since it has to sing in the seven movements of the work in a wide dynamic arc that goes from the almost initial whispers to the energy and the verve of the aforementioned escaped passages. It is the undoubted merit of Andrés Máspero, its director for years, to always be singing musically, with a clear diction and adjusted to the different styles.

Those who attended some of the recent performances of the Ballet of the Rhine in the Royal Theater, where you could also hear Ein deutsches Requiem with another director, and this Saturday concert in Toledo, they will have verified that the baton yes it matters Ivor Bolton, despite the acoustic difficulties, has raised and built a great, exciting and meaningful version from start to finish. When the chorus asks in the sixth movement "Death, where is your sting? Hell, where is your victory? "(Text of Paul's first letter to the Corinthians), Bolton imposed long and eloquent silences that helped both to allow the previous reverberation to end and to intensify the drama of the questions. His two crescendi in the second movement, written in the form of a march, they were perfectly sequenced and knew how to shape the last one, which shares text and spirit with the end of the Musical funerals by Heinrich Schütz (more than two previous centuries), as a balmy and healing music. "Consuelo" is the most repeated word in the text of the work and the key to understand it and to invite us to reflect. The interpretation was received with the resounding applause that had become deserving and the best proof that things had been done well was to confirm that later, when the work was finished, walking through the streets of Toledo, clean and purified by the rain, his message was still making a dent. Music ceases, but consolation remains.

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