There was an American TV show in the 1960s called Get Smart.
It starred Don Adams as Agent 86 and Barbara Feldon as Agent 99, both of CONTROL. Their arch nemesis was an evil organization called KAOS. It was a very funny, albeit goofy, series with writing provided by such luminaries as Buck Henry and Mel Brooks.
Anyway, the show was riddled with catch phrases that became part of American pop culture. One such phrase was “Would you believe…?”
That’s applicable in this case because, “Would you believe there’s an eighth CD of Brahms’ choral music?”
And I’m listening to it now.
And, for the most part, I’m not impressed.
I’ve heard it all before. Nearly seven times before.
These choral arrangements sound vaguely Gregorian (like a few of the earlier ones) in that they’re sonorous, echo-y, and in a foreign language. (Foreign to me, anyway.) Especially when the male chorus performs in 5 Lieder Op. 41. That sounds Gregorian to my ears. If they were singing in Latin it would be a dead ringer for Gregorian chant music.
I will say this about Brahms choral music: The Chamber Choir of Europe is magnificent. If not for their obvious talent, these choral compositions would bore me to tears. (Or, to use another Get Smart catchphrase, they would have “Missed it by that much.”) As it is, the Chamber Choir of Europe offers listeners spectacular performances, even if some of them sound like they’re from a World War II movie.
Marienlieder Op. 22
Fest – und Gedenkspruche Op. 109
5 Lieder Op. 41
12 Lieder und Romanzen Op. 44
Three Sacred Choruses Op. 37
Chamber Choir of Europe
Nicol Matt conductor
I really want to like this stuff. (Really.)
But I’m not hearing anything new that I haven’t heard before, either from Brahms or from other Classical composers. The performances are nice, even inspired. But eight CDs in a row of the same kind of music has worn out its welcome.
“Would you believe…?”