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Johannes Brahms, A German Requiem, Opus 45 (1868)

Johannes Brahms (1833-1897) was a giant of nineteenth-century German music. He was born in Hamburg, the son of a professional musician, and received early musical training in piano and composition from a distinguished teacher, Eduard Marxsen. He left Hamburg at age nineteen to embark on a career as a professional musician and had the good fortune to carry a letter of introduction to two of the brightest lights of German musical life, composer Robert Schumann (1810-1856) and his wife Clara Schumann (1819-1896), the virtuoso pianist. After hearing Brahms play one of his compositions for the piano, Robert Schumann declared the young man the genius the musical world had been waiting for since Beethoven’s death in 1827. Brahms carried this burden for the remainder of his long life. It accounts both for his keenly developed consciousness of the past and his high degree of self-criticism. In 1863, he was appointed conductor of the Vienna Voice Academy. Although he resigned the following year, he chose to remain in the Austrian capital. From 1872 to 1875, he directed the concerts of the Viennese Friends of Music Society. Afterwards, he accepted no formal position, devoting himself to composition and the occasional performance of his own work.

A German Requiem [Ein deutsches Requeim] was the first composition to bring Brahms international renown and financial security. Its dominant theme is comfort for the living: “Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted.” The work was composed during three major periods in Brahms’s life, beginning in the mid-1850s. Most of the Requiem was composed after his mother’s death in 1865. The fifth movement was added later, after the Requiem’s Bremen premiere in 1868. The final version of the work was published in 1869 and performed in Leipzig’s Gewandhaus on February 18, 1869.

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[King James version]


Blessed are they that mourn; for they shall be comforted.
(Matthew 5:4)

They that sow in tears shall reap in joy.
He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with
rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him.
(Psalm 126:5,6)


For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and
the flower thereof falleth away.
(1 Peter 1:24)

Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandmen waiteh for
the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter
rain. (James 5:7)

But the word of the Lord endureth for ever.
(1 Peter 1:25)

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.
(Isaiah 35:10)

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