Rewind a week and a half to our Friday night performance of Brahms’ German Requiem. The concert hall wasn’t full, but there were still about 800 or so seats filled. The orchestra was assembled and emanating that wondrously cacophonic trill of tuning instruments. The choir had warmed up with scales, the last throat cleared. The conductor’s baton was now raised.
The time had finally come.
It’s hard to put the experience into words. My heart was pounding with anticipation. I only hope listening to the performance was as moving as singing it. What a privilege to sing such a moving masterpiece!
Jim, our director, loves to wax philosophical about this huge piece of music. He told us that while traditionally churches perform a Passion, Brahms’ Requiem represents a different aspect of Easter. While a Passion play is informative of Golgotha, i.e., Christ’s sacrifice, the Human Requiem 1 was informative of Easter, i.e., the hope in Resurrection for mourners.
Last week, Sarah and I attended the funeral of my maternal grandmother. She had a long battle with Alzheimer’s. With the Requiem still fresh in our minds, Sarah and I couldn’t help but recognize those powerful portions of Luther’s Bible recited at the funeral and gravesite. Here are those passages as they appear in the German Requiem 2:
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: verily every man at his best state is altogether vanity.
Surely every man walketh in a vain shew: surely they are disquieted in vain: he heapeth up riches, and knoweth not who shall gather them.
And now, Lord, what wait I for? my hope is in thee.
Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.
How lovely is thy dwelling place,
O Lord of hosts!
For my soul, it longeth,
yea fainteth for the courts of the Lord;
my soul and body crieth out,
yea, for the living God.
O blest are they that dwell within thy house;
they praise thy name evermore!
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.
- Brahms considered it a “human” requiem, in that it was based on comfort and consolation for the mourning, rather than the Latin Catholic masses of traditional requiems
- For a complete English translation of the German Requiem texts, see the ChoralWiki