Kittel, Bruno

Performance DetailsRelease DetailsReviews
Soprano: Tilla Briem
Alto: Gertrud Freimuth
Tenor: Walther Ludwig
Bass: Fred Drissen

Choir: Bruno Kittel Chorus
Orchestra: Berliner Philharmoniker
Conductor: Bruno Kittel

Date: 1941
Venue: Berlin, Germany

Label: Deutsche Grammophon
Cat No.: 459 004-2
Released: October 12, 1998
Although this disc contains five items, its title piece—a 55-minute, 1941 recording of the Mozart Requiem—is the most interesting, in part because of the work’s stature and length, but also owing to the perverse policies that existed in Nazi Germany at the time. The conductor, Bruno Kittel, was a Hitler favorite, and he readily acceded to bowdlerizations that excised Sion and Jerusalem from the sung text. One might argue, perhaps, that the performance should have been allowed to rot, but its resurrection provides a symbol—foul as it may be—of the noxious impact of Nazism in general and the potentially insidious image resulting from any political manipulation of the arts.

Politics aside, the performance is more or less what one might expect: large-scaled with good choral work, thickly textured, and old-fashioned by today’s standards. Nonetheless it has more to recommend it than one recorded six years earlier by Bruno Walter.

Mortimer H. Frank, FANFARE [5/1999]

Historic significance rather upstages artistic values in the first volume of DG’s imaginatively conceived “Centenary Collection” — titled “The Early Years” — when an unexceptional performance of Mozart’s Requiem earns notoriety through one singular, sinister peculiarity: the unsettling claim that “all references to Christianity’s Jewish roots [are] rigorously excised”. This means that “Deus in Sion” becomes “Deus in coelis”, and “in Jerusalem”, “hic in terra”. Pinch yourself if you insist, but I can assure you that it is true! Bruno Kittel conducts his own Choir and the Berlin Philharmonic, with a team of soloists that includes the excellent tenor Walther Ludwig, and the 1941 shellac originals have been exceptionally well transferred.

Gramophone [12/1998]