For our next concert, we are joining forces with the Chew Valley Choral Society and the Keynsham Orchestra conducted by Mark Gateshill for a performance of Brahms "A German Requiem".
Composed between 1865 and 1868, this is a complex and demanding work, comprising seven movements, with organ, soprano and baritone soloists. This a unique opportunity for a chamber choir like ours to sing a major work of the choral repertoire. The text, assembled by Brahms himself, taken from the Luther Bible and sung in this concert in English, is translated by Ivor Atkins.
Brahms wrote of the work, “As for the title, I must admit I should like to leave out the word ‘German’ and refer instead to ‘Humanity’.” The text seeks to comfort the living who must deal with and accept death. Nowhere does the text specifically mention Jesus Christ. Brahms was, at best, ambivalent about Christianity, and he seems to have sought to create a work that transcended specific beliefs.
The work is believed to have been started to commemorate the death of Brahms' friend Robert Schumann in 1856. The death of his own mother in 1865 may have encouraged Brahms to complete the composition, his most ambitious choral work.
Of the seven movements, four are written for chorus and orchestra. The other three include vocal soloists: a soprano in the fifth movement and a baritone in the third and sixth movements.
The Requiem is scored for strings, woodwind, brass section, harp, timpani and organ in a full and rich scoring which shows not only the magnificence and skill of Brahms' orchestration but also his commitment to the ideas expressed in the text.