Naxos Records Releases Bella Voce’s Recording of 1871 London Version of Johannes Brahms’ A German Requiem

(CHICAGO 8/26/2019)  Bella Voce’s recording of Johannes Brahms’ A German Requiem has been released on Naxos Records, and is also available for streaming via Apple Music and Spotify.  The release marks a milestone in the development of the 37-year-old organization and a culmination of a journey that began with the performance of the work in April 2017.  A CD will be released on September 13.

The recording gives Bella Voce global distribution for this important version and it will be eligible for a 2020 Grammy Nomination.

Bella Voce’s version is unique in that it presents A German Requiem as Brahms adapted the work--originally composed for chorus and orchestra--for an intimate presentation in a private residence in London in 1871. For the intimate English audience, Brahms adapted the German work into English and the orchestral score into piano for four hands.

When Bella Voce performed the work in April 2017 in Chicago and Evanston, the performances moved audiences and performers alike. The small scale and the immediacy of the English brought out the emotional force of the work in a striking way.  Artistic Director Andrew Lewis, who conducted those performances, remarked that the performances were “a highlight of my career”, and John von Rhein of The Chicago Tribune noted “The choral singing was clear, precise, well-balanced, engaged with the Brahmsian ethos. Lewis shaped each section deftly within a firm overarching structure.” 

Those electrifying, emotional performances led Lewis to pursue a professional recording of the work for international audiences. 

Although Bella Voce usually focuses on earlier music (Medieval, Renaissance, Baroque) or new and contemporary music, Lewis felt compelled to both perform and then record the work because of the uniqueness of this historical performance.

As Lewis commented in the 2017 program notes, asking why Bella Voce should perform this work: “The answer is that we approach music—even new music—from the standpoint of historical performance practice. We make connections between music of our own time to that of the Renaissance and Baroque. It gives us the opportunity to revisit great masterworks well-known to the public as well as those that have fallen into obscurity. It is ironic that this work, which is second only to Handel’s Messiah in the frequency of performance, is little understood outside of what I now realize is an ideologically driven quest for purity to perform only the orchestral version and in German.”

This recording aligns with Bella Voce’s passion for rediscovering works through careful scholarship and craft, and it gives global audiences a unique opportunity to encounter the emotional power and nuance of Brahms’ 1871 London Version of A German Requiem.

Recording Information

Johannes Brahms
Ein Deutsches Requiem (“A German Requiem”)

(1871 London Version)

Michelle Areyzaga, Soprano

Hugh Russell, Baritone

Madeline Slettedahl, Piano

Craig Terry, Piano

Bella Voce
Andrew Lewis, Conductor

Recorded at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, Evanston

January 8 - 11, 2018

September 14, 2018

Executive Producer: Andrew Lewis

Producers: Brian Streem, Hudson Fair, Paul Nicholson

Engineers: Hudson Fair, Ryan Albrecht, Paul Grigonis

Editors: Ryan Albrecht, Hudson Fair

Mixed by: Hudson Fair

Digital Release Date: Saturday, August 24, 2019

CD Release Date:  Friday, September 13, 2019

Released by Naxos Records

Soprano: Kirsten Hedegaard, Henriët Fourie Thompson, Cynthia Spiegel, Gina Hilse, Patty Kennedy, Carling FitzSimmons, Hannah De Priest, 

Alto: Thomas Aláa, Magda Krance, Amanda Koopman, Natalie Holz, Anna VanDeKerchove, Nora Engonopoulos, Orna Arania, Makenzie Matthews, 

Tenor: Frank Villella, Matthew Schlesinger, Patrick Muehleise, Micah Dingler, Josh Pritchett, Erich Buchholz, Matthew Dean, Keith Murphy

Bass: Mark Haddad, Dominic German, Eric Miranda, Mark Winston, Michael Brown, Stephen Richardson

About Bella Voce 

" of the crown jewels of choral music in the city” —Chicago Tribune, April 2018

“...historically informed scholarship and lively re-creative intelligence” —Chicago Tribune, October 2017

" honey, rich and shining, with soprano voices soaring above the altos, tenors and basses, like light through darkness.” —Chicago Sun Times, 2006

Bella Voce proudly enriches Chicago’s rich cultural tapestry through intimate, moving performances of early music and the music of our time. Since 1983 our ensemble has enchanted audiences with historically informed presentations of fascinating choral and chamber works, whether well-known, rare, or new. We invite our audiences to join us in discovering artworks that have the power to lift us up, move us, and transform us. Our concerts are crafted through research and careful attention to performance practices, and we partner with Chicago’s top period instrument ensembles to bring works for voice and orchestra to life. Our repertoire and performance practices are rooted in the discipline of the English Renaissance and European Baroque traditions, and we boldly break boundaries to challenge our audiences to explore the expressive and artistic potential of the human musical imagination. We are committed to Chicago and to making the world a safer, more peaceful, more beautiful place through art. 

In 2004, Bella Voce received the prestigious Alice Parker ASCAP Chorus America Award for programming that was "an adventurous stretch" for both singers and audience, notably the 2002 Midwest premiere of Einojuhani Rautavaara's “Vigilia.” The ensemble has recorded for Centaur, Harmonia Mundi, Narada, and Cedille Records and also has four self-produced CDs in release.  Bella Voce has commissioned choral works by composers including Frank Ferko, Gustavo Leone, Gabriel Jackson, Janika Vandervelde and Rami Levin.

About Andrew Lewis 

Recently profiled by John von Rhein in the Chicago Tribune as an “inspiring conductor, scholar, and educator,” Andrew Lewis is artistic director of Bella Voce; music director of the Elgin Master Chorale; founder and artistic director of the Janus Ensemble, a professional chamber orchestra specializing in Baroque and new music, which has now evolved into the Bella Voce Sinfonia; choirmaster at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Evanston; assistant conductor of the Chicago Symphony Chorus; artistic director of Opus 327; and a member of the conducting faculty at the University of Illinois at Chicago. He is also artistic director emeritus of the Lutheran Choir of Chicago, and he formerly taught conducting at DePaul University. Lewis has been a guest lecturer at Concordia University Chicago, Garrett Theological Seminary in Evanston, and the nationally recognized Lectures in Church Music series. He has appeared as a guest conductor with the Elgin Symphony Orchestra and the Milwaukee Symphony Chorus, and his performances have been heard live on 98.7 WFMT classical radio. Andrew Lewis and Bella Voce were selected in 2014 by the Chicago Tribune’s John von Rhein as the classical musicians everyone should have on their radar in their fall Arts Preview.  Lewis has served as artistic director of Bella Voce since September 2006.