Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Ensemberlino Vocale debuts with Kiel Requiem

Friedrich Kiel (1821-1885) is hardly a household name -- although he should be, based on the quality of his music. In his lifetime, his works were known, but mainly by fellow musicians. The self-effacing Keil preferred to quietly teach the next generation of composers (including Paderewski and Stanford) rather than promote his own works.

It's always good to have more Kiel available through recordings. Especially a major work like this.

Kiel's Requiem in F minor predates Brahms' German Requiem by five years. Kiel's work stretches the boundaries of the form, while Brahms' bursts them. Still, there's a lot of superb music in Kiel's composition, and it holds up well in comparison with Brahms. Kiel was a masterful composer, and his choral writing moves from one beautifully turned phrase to the next.

For their initial recording, the Ensemberlino Vocale opted for the chamber rather than the orchestral version of this work. Kiel's chamber music garnered the greatest respect from his colleagues, and I can hear why. The piano accompaniment doesn't sound like an orchestral reduction. Instead, it's a fully-realised idiomatically-written part that seamlessly blends into the whole.

The Ensemberlino Vocale have a rich, full ensemble sound with laser-precise articulation. I do have a couple of quibbles. Some of the soloists sound a little weak and don't fully support their high notes.

And there are a few places where the sopranos sound a little too bright -- but that may be the fault of the recording. Despite these hiccups, the ensemble's performance won me over and drew me into the work.

It's an ambitious first recording and one that well serves Kiel's music.

Friedrich Kiel: Requiem in F minor op. 20
Ensemberlino Vocale; Sua Baek, piano; Matthias Stoffels, director
Rondeau Production ROP6141

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