German Requiem

German Requiem

"Ein deutsches Requiem", nach Worten der heiligen Schrift, Op. 45 (English: "A German Requiem, to words of the Holy Scriptures") is a large-scale work for chorus, orchestra, and soloists, composed by Johannes Brahms between 1865 and 1868. "Ein deutsches Requiem" is sacred but non-liturgical. It comprises seven movements, which together last 70-80 minutes, making "Ein deutsches Requiem" Brahms's longest composition.

History

Brahms's mother died in February 1865, a loss that painfully grieved him and that may well have inspired "Ein deutsches Requiem". Brahms's lingering feelings over Robert Schumann's death in July 1856 may also have been a motivation, though his reticence about such matters makes this uncertain. [Steinberg, 69.]

By the end of April 1865, Brahms had completed the first, second, and fourth movements. The second movement used some previously abandoned musical material written in 1854, the year of Schumann's mental collapse and attempted suicide, and of Brahms's move to Düsseldorf to assist Clara Schumann and her seven children.

Brahms completed all but what is now the fifth movement by August 1866. Johannes Herbeck conducted the first three movements in Vienna on December 1, 1867. This partial premiere went poorly due to a misunderstanding in the timpanist's score. Sections marked as "pf" were played as "f" or "ff", essentially drowning out the rest of the ensemble in the fugal section of the third movement. [Thuleen [http://www.nthuleen.com/papers/415brahms.html] "Ein deutsches Requiem: (Mis)conceptions of the Mass"] The first performance of all 6 movements premiered in the Bremen cathedral six months later on Good Friday, 10 April 1868, with Brahms conducting and Julius Stockhausen as the baritone soloist. The performance was a great success and marked a turning point in his career. [Steinberg, 68-69]

Brahms added the fifth movement in May 1868. It was first sung in Zurich on September 12, 1868 by Ida Suter-Weber, with Friedrich Hegar conducting the Zurich Tonhalle Orchestra. The final, seven-movement version of "Ein deutsches Requiem" was premiered in Leipzig on February 18, 1869 with Carl Reinecke conducting the Gewandhaus Orchestra and Chorus, and soloists Emilie Bellingrath-Wagner and Franz Krükl.

Text

Brahms assembled the libretto to "Ein deutsches Requiem" himself. In contrast to the traditional Roman Catholic requiem mass, which employs a standardized text in Latin, "Ein deutsches Requiem" derives its text from the German Luther Bible.

Brahms's first known use of the title "A German Requiem" was in an 1865 letter to Clara Schumann in which he wrote that he intended for the piece to be "a sort of German Requiem". Brahms was quite moved when he found out years later that Robert Schumann had planned a work of the same name. [Steinberg, 69] "German" refers primarily to the language rather than the intended audience. Brahms told Karl Martin Reinthaler, director of music at the Bremen cathedral, that he would have gladly called the work "A Human Requiem". [Steinberg, 70]

Although the Requiem Mass in the Roman Catholic liturgy begins with prayers for the dead ("Grant them eternal rest, O Lord"), "Ein deutsches Requiem" emphasizes comforting the living, beginning with the text "Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted." A comparable sacred, humanist worldview persists through the work. [Steinberg, 70]

In fact, Brahms purposefully omitted Christian dogma. [See analysis of the work under External links.] In his correspondence with Karl Reinthaler, when Reinthaler expressed concern over this, Brahms refused to add references to "the redeeming death of the Lord", as Reinthaler put it, such as "". In the Bremen performance of the piece, Reinthaler took the liberty of inserting the aria "I know that my redeemer liveth" from Handel's Messiah, with a view to satisfy the clergy. [cite web|url=http://www.brandeis.edu/arts/office/state/archives/spring2007.pdf|title=State of the Arts|format=PDF, page 7]

Movements

This performance was by the The Holden Consort Orchestra and Choir.

Movement German Text English Translation
Multi-listen item|filename=Johannes Brahms - Op.45 Ein Deutsches Requiem - (01) Selig sind, die da Leid tragen.ogg|title=1. "Selig sind, die da Leid tragen"|description=Blessed are they that mourn Selig sind, die da Leid tragen, denn sie sollen getröstet werden.
Die mit Tränen säen, werden mit Freuden ernten.
Sie gehen hin und weinen und tragen edlen Samen, und kommen mit Freuden und bringen ihre Garben.
Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.
They that sow in tears shall reap in joy.
They that go forth and weep, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing their sheaves with them.
Multi-listen item|filename=Johannes Brahms - Op.45 Ein Deutsches Requiem - (02) Denn alles Fleisch, es ist wie Gras.ogg|title=2. "Denn alles Fleisch, es ist wie Gras"|description=For all flesh is as grass Denn alles Fleisch es ist wie Gras und alle Herrlichkeit des Menschen wie des Grases Blumen. Das Gras ist verdorret und die Blume abgefallen.
So seid nun geduldig, lieben Brüder, bis auf die Zukunft des Herrn. Siehe, ein Ackermann wartet auf die köstliche Frucht der Erde und ist geduldig darüber, bis er empfahe den Morgenregen und Abendregen.
So seid nun geduldig.
Aber des Herrn Wort bleibet in Ewigkeit.
Die Erlöseten des Herrn werden wieder kommen und gen Zion kommen mit Jauchzen. Freude, ewige Freude wird über ihrem Haupte sein; Freude und Wonne werden sie ergreifen, und Schmerz und Seufzen wird weg müssen.
For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower thereof falleth away.
Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and has long patience for it, until he receive the morning and evening rain.
But the word of the Lord endureth for ever.
And the ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads: they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.
Multi-listen item|filename=Johannes Brahms - Op.45 Ein Deutsches Requiem - (03) Herr, lehre doch mich.ogg|title=3. "Herr, lehre doch mich"|description=Lord, make me to know mine end Herr, lehre doch mich, daß ein Ende mit mir haben muß, und mein Leben ein Ziel hat, und ich davon muß.
Siehe, meine Tage sind einer Handbreit vor dir, und mein Leben ist wie nichts vor dir.
Ach, wie gar nichts sind alle Menschen, die doch so sicher leben. Sie gehen daher wie ein Schemen, und machen ihnen viel vergebliche Unruhe; sie sammeln, und wissen nicht wer es kriegen wird. Nun, Herr, wes soll ich mich trösten? Ich hoffe auf dich.
Der Gerechten Seelen sind in Gottes Hand, und keine Qual rühret sie an.
Lord, make me to know mine end, and the measure of my days, what it is: that I may know how frail I am.
Behold, thou hast made my days as an handbreadth; and mine age is as nothing before thee.
Surely every man walks in a vain show: surely they are disquieted in vain: he heaps up riches, and knows not who shall gather them.
And now, Lord, what wait I for? My hope is in thee.
The souls of the righteous are in the hand of God and there shall no torment touch them.
Multi-listen item|filename=Johannes Brahms - Op.45 Ein Deutsches Requiem - (04) Wie lieblich sind deine Wohnungen.ogg|title=4. "Wie lieblich sind deine Wohnungen"|description=How lovely is thy dwelling place Wie lieblich sind deine Wohnungen, Herr Zebaoth!
Meine Seele verlanget und sehnet sich nach den Vorhöfen des Herrn; mein Leib und Seele freuen sich in dem lebendigen Gott.
Wohl denen, die in deinem Hause wohnen, die loben dich immerdar.
How lovely are thy tabernacles, O Lord of hosts!
My soul longs, yea, even faints for the courts of the Lord: my heart and my flesh cries out for the living God.
Blessed are they that dwell in thy house: they will always be praising thee.
Multi-listen item|filename=Johannes Brahms - Op.45 Ein Deutsches Requiem - (05) Ihr habt nun Traurigkeit.ogg|title=5. "Ihr habt nun Traurigkeit"|description=And ye now therefore have sorrow Ihr habt nun Traurigkeit; aber ich will euch wieder sehen und euer Herz soll sich freuen, und eure Freude soll niemand von euch nehmen.
Sehet mich an: Ich habe eine kleine Zeit Mühe und Arbeit gehabt und habe großen Trost funden.
Ich will euch trösten, wie einen seine Mutter tröstet.
And ye now therefore have sorrow: but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you.
Behold with your eyes, how that I have but little labour, and have gotten unto me much rest.
As one whom his mother comforts, so will I comfort you.
Multi-listen item|filename=Johannes Brahms - Op.45 Ein Deutsches Requiem - (06) Denn wir haben hie keine bleibende Statt.ogg|title=6. "Denn wir haben hie keine bleibende Statt"|description=For here have we no lasting home Denn wir haben hie keine bleibende Statt, sondern die zukünftige suchen wir.
Siehe, ich sage euch Geheimnis: Wir werden nicht alle entschlafen, wir werden aber all verwandelt werden; und dasselbige plötzlich, in einem Augenblick, zu der Zeit der letzen Posaune. Denn es wird die Posaune schallen, und die Toten werden auferstehen unverweslich, und wir werden verwandelt werden. Dann wird erfüllet werden das Wort, das geschrieben steht: Der Tod ist verschlungen in den Sieg. Tod, wo ist dein Stachel? Hölle, wo ist dein Sieg?
Herr, du bist würdig, zu nehmen Preis und Ehre und Kraft, denn du hast alle Dinge geschaffen, und durch deinen Willen haben sie das Wesen und sind geschaffen.
For here have we no continuing city, but we seek one to come.
Behold, I show you a mystery: we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.
Then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?
Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.
Multi-listen item|filename=Johannes Brahms - Op.45 Ein Deutsches Requiem - (07) Selig sind die Toten.ogg|title=7. "Selig sind die Toten"|description=Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord Selig sind die Toten, die in dem Herren sterben, von nun an. Ja der Geist spricht, daß sie ruhen von ihrer Arbeit; denn ihre Werke folgen ihnen nach. Blessed are the dead, which die in the Lord, from henceforth. Yea, says the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them.

Orchestration

"Ein deutsches Requiem" is scored for:

*Soprano and baritone soloists
*Mixed chorus
*2 flutes and piccolo
*2 oboes
*2 clarinets
*2 bassoons and contrabassoon (contrabassoon "ad libitum")
*4 horns
*2 trumpets
*3 trombones
* tuba
* timpani
* harp (one part, preferably doubled)
* organ ("ad libitum")
* strings

Notable orchestrational devices include the first movement's lack of violins, as well as piccolo, clarinets, one pair of horns, trumpets, tuba, and timpani; and the use of harps at the close of both the first and seventh movements, most striking in the latter because at that point they have not played since the middle of the second movement.

Also notable is that the four voice parts of the choir do not divide, e.g. into first and second sopranos, as often as they do in other major choral works of its era.

An alternative version of the work was prepared by Brahms to be performed as a piano duet, four hands on one piano. This version also incorporates the vocal parts, suggesting that it was intended as a self-contained version probably for at-home use, but the vocal parts can also be omitted, making the duet version an acceptable substitute accompaniment for choir and soloists in circumstances where a full orchestra is unavailable. The first complete (excepting the yet-unwritten fifth movement) performance of the Requiem in London, in July 1871 at the home of Sir Henry Thompson and his wife, the pianist Kate Loder (Lady Thompson), utilized this piano-duet accompaniment (and was sung in English).

Unifying motif

"Ein deutsches Requiem" is unified compositionally by a three-note motif of a leap of a major third, usually followed by a half-step in the same direction. The first exposed choral entry presents the motif in the soprano voice (F-A-B flat). This motif pervades every movement and much of the thematic material in the piece. [Steinberg, 71-74]

Notable recordings

"Listed alphabetically by conductor"
* Claudio Abbado conducting the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra (Germany). Recorded live in 1992 and released in 1993 by Deutsche Grammophon; with the Swedish Radio Chorus, Eric Ericson Chamber Choir, Cheryl Studer (soprano), Andreas Schmidt (bass-baritone). (A later DVD with Abbado/Berlin features Barbara Bonney, soprano.)
* Gerd Albrecht conducting the Danish National Orchestra (Denmark). Released in 2003 by Chandos Records.
* Herbert Blomstedt conducting the San Francisco Symphony (United States). Released in 1995 by London and winner of the 1995 Grammy Award for Best Choral Performance.
* Sergiu Celibidache conducting the Münchner Philharmoniker.Recorded live in 1981 and released in 1999 by EMI.
* Stephen Cleobury conducting the King's College Choir, using Brahms's 2-piano arrangement. Recorded in 2006 and released by EMI.
* Harry Christophers conducting The Sixteen, also using Brahms's 2-piano arrangement. Recorded in 2006 and released on Coro Records.
* Wilhelm Furtwängler conducting the Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra and Chorus live in concert, with soloists Kerstin Lindberg-Torlind, soprano and Bernhard Sönnerstedt, baritone, recorded in 1948, and released on various labels, most recently Music and Arts.
* Wilhelm Furtwängler conducting the Lucerne Festival orchestra and chorus live in concert, with soloists Elizabeth Schwarzkopf and Hans Hotter, also recorded in 1948. The recording is incomplete, however, and suffers from severe wow, surface noise, and overload distortion.
* Sir John Eliot Gardiner conducting the Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique. Recorded in 1990 and released by Philips in 1991. Uses period instruments.
* Philippe Herreweghe conducting the Orchestre des Champs-Elysées (France). Recorded live in 1996 and released in 1996 by Harmonia Mundi. Uses period instruments.
* Craig Jessop conducting the Utah Symphony Orchestra (United States) & Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Recorded February 1999 and released in October 1999 by Telarc. Recorded in English.
* Herbert von Karajan conducting the Berliner Philharmoniker and Wiener Singverein (Germany). Recorded in 1964 and released in 2002 by Deutsche Grammophon.
* Herbert von Karajan conducting the Berliner Philharmoniker. Recorded in 1976 and released in 2003 by EMI.
* Rudolf Kempe conducting the Berliner Philharmoniker. Recorded in 1955 Jesus-Christus Kirche, Berlin-Dahlem, Choir of St. Hedwigs-Kathedral, Elizabeth Grümmer, Deitrich Fischer-Dieskau. EMI
* Otto Klemperer conducting the Philharmonia Orchestra (England). Recorded in 1961 and released in 1999 by EMI Classics.
* Rafael Kubelík conducting the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra. Recorded live in 1978 and released in 2002 by Audite.
* Bernard Haitink conducting the Vienna Philharmonic. Recorded in 1980 and released by Philips Records.
* James Levine conducting the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chicago Symphony Chorus. Recorded in 1983 by RCA.
* Kurt Masur conducting the New York Philharmonic (United States). Recorded live in 1995 and released in 1995 by Teldec.
* Roger Norrington conducting the London Classical Players and Schütz Choir of London. Recorded and released in 1999 by Virgin.
* Andre Previn conducting the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (England). Recorded in 1986 and released in 2002 by Apex.
* Simon Rattle conducting the Berlin Philharmonic. Recorded in concert in 2006 and released in 2007 by EMI Classics. In 2008, winner of the 50th Grammy Award for Best Choral Performance.
* Wolfgang Sawallisch conducting the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra (Germany). Released in 1995 by Orfeo.
* Carl Schuricht conducting the Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra (Germany). Recorded in 1959 and released in 2004 by Hänssler Classic.
* Robert Shaw conducting the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and Chorus (United States). Recorded in 1990 and released in 1992 by Telarc.
* Sir Georg Solti conducting the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chicago Symphony Chorus. Recorded in 1978 by London/Decca.
* Bruno Walter conducting the New York Philharmonic Orchestra and Westminster Choir. Recorded live in Carnegie Hall in 1954.

Critical Reception

Most critics have commented on the high level of craftsmanship displayed in the work, and have appreciated its quasi-classical structures (eg the third and sixth movements have fugues at their climax). But not all critics responded favourably to the work. George Bernard Shaw wrote that "it could only have come from the establishment of a first-class undertaker." Some commentators have also been puzzled by its lack of overt Christian content, though it seems clear that for Brahms this was a humanist rather than a Christian work. (see eg [http://www.nthuleen.com/papers/415brahms.html Brahms' German Requiem: History and Criticism] )

References

* Steinberg, Michael. "Johannes Brahms: A German Requiem on Words from Holy Scripture, op. 45." "Choral Masterworks: A Listener's Guide." Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005, 68-74.

External links

* [http://w3.rz-berlin.mpg.de/cmp/brahms_requiem.html Full German text and English translation of "Ein Deutsches Requiem"]
* [http://www.theosophy-nw.org/theosnw/arts/ar-azeb.htm Analysis of the work] , by Armin Zebrowski
*Free scores of in the Choral Public Domain Library (ChoralWiki)
*
* [http://ml.cs.colorado.edu/~ben/Brahms The ghost of the Free Music project] has a recording available under [http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/ a Creative Commons license] .


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