Johannes Brahms: A German Requiem

Johannes Brahms: A German Requiem

Brahms dedicated many works to the field of vocal music. Here, we encounter compositions of varying scope, from folksongs and choirs to cantatas and oratorios. In the category of larger format pieces, we find the cantata "Rinaldo," "Song of Destiny," "Triumphal Song," "Nänie," and the magnificent "A German Requiem" (German: "Ein Deutsches Requiem"), one of the most beautiful works of modern sacred music. Brahms did not compose his requiem using the traditional text of the Latin Mass for the Dead. Instead, he selected several biblical passages and developed a series of deeply subjective meditations on death, transience, and eternity. In the "German Requiem," the juxtaposition of contrasts between the soloists and the choir, the simple, profoundly inventive beauty of the melody, and the tasteful use of polyphonic style, which sometimes reaches the strength and grandeur of Bach's monumentality (e.g., in the double fugue of the sixth movement), are particularly captivating.

Conductor's Word: Despite the unity of form and content, individual movements possess their own structural distinctiveness, tonal colors, and expression. For example, in the opening movement ("Blessed are they that mourn..."), the choir's singing is marked by the sound of deep strings (without violins), occasionally enlivened by the harp; it is followed by a mournful march (in triple meter) reminiscent of the inexorable certainty of death ("For all flesh is as grass..."), where the choir's unison is contrasted with the somber sarabande of the orchestra. After a comforting episode ("And now, saith the Lord..."), the movement concludes with the announcement of the trombones and the choir shouting "Redeemed of the Lord." In the third movement, the prayer of the soloist is taken over by the choir and develops into the famous fugue on the "Orgelpunkt" ("And the souls of the righteous are in the hand of God...") with deep strings, trombones, and timpani. The fourth movement is depicted with lyrical tenderness, heavenly blessed peace of woodwinds and violins, which continues into the fifth movement with the soprano solo and a special muted violin sound. The dramatic climax of the work is achieved in the sixth movement, where, after the choral introduction ("For here, we have no continuing city..."), St. Paul announces the miracle of redemption through the baritone solo. This is followed by the formidable scene of the Last Judgment and the victory over death and hell, leading to a solemn double fugue of praise. The seventh movement ("Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord...") coincides with the first movement, concluding the work with the same feelings of peace and consolation. - Maestro Ivo Lipanović
Conductor Ivo Lipanović

 

Soloists Nela Šarić, soprano
Thomas Tatzl, bass-baritone
  Orchestra and Choir of CNT Split