4F de Télérama
There are several uses for Brahms' transcription of Ein Deutsches Requiem scored for soloists and chorus but with the orchestral parts arranged by the composer for two pianos. It can be useful to choirs without access to an orchestra and thus broaden the availability of the work. It can be useful to scholars studying how Brahms solved the problems of transcription and thus broaden the understanding of one of the great German nineteenth century composers. But as an arrangement, Brahms' is not itself particularly successful. Two pianos cannot compete with the long lines of the strings, the colors of the winds, the heroism of the horns, and the fateful tread of the tympani, and all that's left here is a black and white snapshot of a great work.
While it may be useful to have a recording of Brahms' arrangement available, this 2003 recording by Laurence Equilbey directing Accentus with soprano Sandrine Piau, baritone Stéphane Degout, and pianists Brigitte Engerer and Boris Berezovsky is itself not especially useful. Despite the absence of an orchestra, the textures are thick to the point of opacity. Part of it is that Accentus has more weight than gravity and more density than clarity. Part of it is that Equilbey is slow to the point of turgidity and sluggish past the point of torpidity. And part of it is that Engerer and Berezovsky are terrific virtuosos with stunning recordings of Chopin and Rachmaninov behind them, but they are too much for their parts and instead of sounding like two pianos substituting for an orchestra, they sound like two virtuosos trying to sound like two orchestras. Piau is pleasant and Degout is doughty, but the performance has sunk long under its own weight before either of them open their mouths.