Antoni Wit and the Warsaw Philharmonic have been responsible for many of Naxos's finest recordings over the years, and their latest disc, a survey of Brahms's shorter works for chorus and orchestra, more than lives up to expectations. The programme is arranged chronologically, beginning with the Ave Maria of 1858 and closing with the desolate Gesang der Parzen from 1882. In between come the tremendous existential statements of the Alto Rhapsody and Schicksalslied, together with Nänie, one of music's great meditations on mortality. You might not like Wit's approach if you like your Brahms volatile. His conducting is wonderfully judged, if slow, allowing the music to unfold with a measured eloquence that often generates a sense of gathering implacability, in the Schicksalslied above all. Ewa Wolak is the detached soloist in the Rhapsody. It's the Warsaw Philharmonic Choir's contribution, superbly controlled and articulate, that is so sensational here, however. Their performance of Nänie, in particular, is among the most beautiful on disc.
Brahms: Choral Music – review
Wolak/Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra and Choir/Wit
Tim Ashley is a Guardian classical and opera critic, though he's also keen on literature and philosophy so you might sometimes find him cross-referencing all three. His work has also appeared in Literary Review and Opera magazine and he is author of a biography of Richard Strauss