Music with Ease > Classical Music > Concert Guide: Romantic Era > The German Requiem - Brahms
The German Requiem
The "German Requiem," so called, is not a requiem in its sentiment, nor in any sense, a religious service. It might with more propriety be called a "sacred cantata." The poem is full of consolation for the mourner, of assurances of joy hereafter, of warnings against the pomps and vanities of the world, and closes with the victory of the saint over death and the grave. The work has seven numbers -- two baritone solos and chorus, soprano solo and chorus, and four separate choruses.
The opening chorus ("Blessed are they that go mourning") is particularly noticeable for the richness of its accompaniment. In the Funeral March, which follows, a very graphic resemblance to the measured tread of the cortège is accomplished by the use of triple time. The third number ("Lord, make me to know the Measure of my Days on earth") opens with a baritone solo, followed by two choral fugues, which are solidly constructed. They are extremely difficult to sing, and call for a chorus of unusual discipline and intelligence. The fourth, for chorus ("How lovely is Thy Dwelling-place, O Lord of Hosts"), is in striking contrast with its predecessor, being a slow movement, and very melodious in style. The fifth ("Ye now are sorrowful, grieve not"), for soprano solo and chorus, shows the composer's unusual power as a songwriter, as well as his melodious attractiveness when melody answers his purpose. In the next number, set for chorus with baritone solo responses ("Here on Earth we have no continuing Place, we seek now a heavenly One"), the character of the music changes again, and the resurrection of the dead is pictured in fugal passages of tremendous power and difficulty. After the storm comes the calm again in the Finale ("Blessed are the Faithful who in the Lord are sleeping"), which contains a reminiscence of the opening number, and closes the work in a gentle, but deeply serious strain.