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Max Bruch is not the first name that comes to mind when thinking about unaccompanied German choral music. If these two discs are anything to go by, there is a very good reason: it’s all very worthy but, oh, so dull. When staying within the framework of the romantic school of composition, if the composer had spent more time on composition and less on railing against his contemporaries he might have produced something on the same level as his popular Violin Concerto. The various straightforward settings may be simple, but they lack those touches of genius that lift the very ordinary into the sublime; and the onset of modernism passed Bruch by completely. For example, in the romantic genre a setting of the text of An die Musik is as far removed from Schubert as it’s possible to get.

The second disc is lighter in mood as these are mainly arrangements of folksongs, giving a Germanic slant to the likes of The Bells of Aberdovey and Men of Harlech. It’s all a great pity, as Konzertchor Darmstadt is a fine choir whose singers blend and phrase well. They make the most expressively of the material and are worthy of a minimum of three stars, but…

SHIRLEY RATCLIFFE Read the full review on Agora Classica


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