Brahms masterpiece

Brahms: “Ein Deutsches Requiem” (A German Requiem)
Recorded live at the Usher Hall, Edinburgh, in 2008

This highly spiritual work by Johannes Brahms is one of my all-time great favorite works in music. Brahms composed it in memory of his mother.

In this recording, this masterpiece is coupled with music by Heinrich Schütz. Since Brahms began his music career as a chorus master and chorus coach and director, it is entirely possible that he performed the music by Heinrich Schütz, and that it may have influenced the creation of Brahms’ requiem.

The works on this CD are:


  • Ein Deutsches Requiem, Op. 45


  • Psalm 84: Wie lieblich sind deine Wohnungen, SWV 29
  • Selig sind die Toten, SWV391

Performed by Katharine Fuge (soprano), and Matthew Brook (bass), with the
Monteverdi Choir & Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique, conducted by John Eliot Gardiner

Heinrich Schütz lived from 1585-1672. We also know that Brahms was a collector of all sorts of old music and Gregorian chants. As such, this music may have inspired the composition of the Requiem.

Deeply moving, profound, and powerful, the Brahms Requiem is central to our understanding of Brahms’ compositional approach and his inner spiritual life. Behind its dramatic gestures, it reveals Brahms’ fondness for folk-songs and the music of the past.

The libretto, assembled by Brahms himself based on the Lutheran Bible, makes it a definitive personal statement of his position in matters of religion. It was a great “scandal” in Vienna at that time that the word “Jesus” was not included in the text. Brahms, however, stood his ground: He explained that as the composer he is entitled to choose whatever text he wishes for this work.

Here are some press comments:

1. Sunday Times, 26th February 2012:

“Schütz’s radiant Psalm 84, gloriously sung by the Monteverdi Choir, almost steals the show here…The big C major fugue [of the Requiem] is particularly rousing and the lovely “Wie lieblich” exquisite. Gardiner is right that Brahms demands flexibility of tempo, but overdoes it in the final number, missing the grand sweep of the opening melody with too fast a tempo.”

2. The Observer, 26th February 2012:

“The choral ensemble is superb; intonation perfect. Gardiner’s instrumentalists’ meticulous attention to authentic performance style adds a further dimension to a glorious reading of this beautiful piece. Highly recommended.”

3. The Independent, 2nd March 2012

“Gardiner’s forces are marshalled with care, the Monteverdi Choir as uplifting as on his series of Bach Cantatas, while the Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique lives up to its name in its emotional subtlety.”

Here is a small section of the Requiem: “Herr, lehre doch mich (Baritone Solo)”, performed by the Monteverdi Choir, and the Orchestre Revolutionnaire et Romantique, conducted by John Eliot Gardiner




Tags: Johannes Brahms, German Requiem, John Eliot Gardiner, Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique

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