"...I would recommend this release as an urgent purchase ..."
Jerry Dubins - Fanfare - July 2012
"No one should be put off by the drab, generic title of this release —“Brahms Choral Music” —which conceals a trove with as much musical-dramatic weight as many an opera. While the Warsaw forces perform these treasures with distinction, the real news is made by a single voice, that of Ewa Wolak, soloist in the Brahms Alto Rhapsody. This seems to be that natural wonder, the true contralto, with wine-dark coloring and a cavernous lower range. The resonance continues up the scale in a rich blend with lots of undertone, the ideal sound for this work’s asperities and broad, hard-won lyricism. Wolak’s timbre has elemental expressive force, both in the steep, sudden register shifts of the lament over “Menschenhass” (hatred of humankind) and then in a compelling legato for the prayerful plea for comfort."
David J Baker - Opera News - July 2012
"Someone in the production department at Naxos obviously put some thought and consideration in this well-planned grouping of some of the best music for chorus and orchestra by Johannes Brahms (1833–1897). Not only are these some of the best from Brahms’ output in the genre, but they all seem to dwell on the same dark and foreboding subject matters of fate, destiny, death and ultimate redemption, and therefore come together well to create a conceptual album if you will. Contralto Ewa Wolak does a magnificent job here as her voice seems, like a chameleon, to take on and project the spirit in the words and music as it changes. The Warsaw Philharmonic Choir also does a wonderful job as it enters quietly behind the contralto’s voice and uplifts her spiritual journey to the end. Conductor Antoni Wit leads exemplary and commendable readings of these pieces, exposing all of Brahms’ darker colors, with here and there, the luster of old burnished gold."
Jean-Yves Duperron - Classical Music Sentinel - April 2012
"The chorus, numbering more than 75, has a rich, mature sound, ably matched by the Warsaw Philharmonic. Conductor Wit chooses broad, romantic tempos for the Alto Rhapsody, Schicksalslied and Nänie ... Contralto Ewa Wolak is splendid in the Alto Rhapsody. She has an absolutely solid voice, very rich and full, with excellent intonation and feeling for the text. So, all in all, this looks like a fine release; and indeed, every piece is nicely done."
Paul L Althouse - American Record Guide - May 2012
"Antoni Wit is proving to be one of Naxos’s greatest assets, a conductor of strong personality who puts musical values first, yet can readily create both drama and spontaneity in the recording studio. Moreover, Ewa Wolak is a a rich-toned contralto, without a hint of a wobble, who can evoke exactly the kind of lyrical drama which the lovely Alto Rhapsody commands. I cannot say more than her account reminds one of Dame Janet Baker, and the chorale at the work’s close is richly satisfying, with the Warsaw Philharmonic Choir singing with great eloquence...this super-budget collection is marvellously sung and played."
Ivan March - Gramophone magazine - March 2012
"The performances are profound and dignified, and the overall effect uncanny. The Warsaw Philharmonic Choir under choirmaster Henryk Wojnarowski has a gorgeous rich tone that is undiminished by the long lines of the music, and the Alto Rhapsody achieves real grandeur in the hands of contralto Ewa Wolak. But the real credit goes to the Warsaw Philharmonic and conductor Antoni Wit, who keep a consistent level of tension and momentum in difficult, dark material like the somber Nänie, Op. 82 (Funeral Song)... The engineering ... makes the lines of this intricate music perfectly clear"
James Manheim - Allmusic.com - April 2012
"... An anthology of all Brahms’s shorter choral-orchestral works is a welcome thing, especially in performances as sterling as these."
Calum MacDonald - BBC Music Magazine - February 2012
"...The chorus has a beautiful sound, very good diction, and is well balanced. It is firm and sturdy, yet can be transparent when needed. The orchestra is deft, and blends well with the chorus. The woodwinds are very expressive. The recording is spacious and clear, Naxos-style. The sound is full and majestic especially when loud. Overall this project rejoices in a sense of freshness, like clear water. If you like the feeling of being immersed in a sea of rising and falling waves of a mighty chorus you should try this disc."
Oleg Ledeniov - MusicWeb-International.com - 8 August 2012
"...While all of these works have been recorded a number of times, this disc is recommended as an economical compilation of the major Brahms choral/orchestral works (sans German Requiem) in fine performances overall."
William Kreindler - musicweb-international.com - 7 June 2012
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