Day 340: Ein Deutsches Requiem

BrahmsCD34The first Brahms vocal music!

Here’s what I’m listening to:

Ein Deutsches Requiem Op. 45

According to its entry on Wikipedia:

A German Requiem, To Words of the Holy Scriptures, Op. 45 (German: Ein deutsches Requiem, nach Worten der heiligen Schrift) by Johannes Brahms, is a large-scale work for chorus, orchestra, and a soprano and a baritone soloist, composed between 1865 and 1868. It comprises seven movements, which together last 65 to 80 minutes, making this work Brahms’s longest composition. A German Requiem is sacred but non-liturgical, and unlike a long tradition of the Latin Requiem, A German Requiem, as its title states, is a Requiem in the German language.

Brahms’s mother died in February 1865, a loss that caused him much grief and 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.

Most critics have commented on the high level of craftsmanship displayed in the work, and have appreciated its quasi-classical structures (e.g. the third and sixth movements have fugues at their climax). But not all critics responded favourably to the work. George Bernard Shaw, an avowed Wagnerite, 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.

Here’s who’s the vocalists are:

Anna Tomova-Sintov soprano

Gunther Leib baritone

Here’s who’s playing the music:

Rundfunk-Solistenvereinigung und Rundfunkchor Berlin

Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin

Here’s the conductor:

Helmut Koch

This performance was recorded in 1973.

And it’s good.

I’m not usually one for vocal compositions. But this one is remarkably good – probably more for the talent of the performers and musicians than for Brahms’ composition. Regardless, I award this Favorite status.