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Director's Commentary

Grappling with our mortality has been an immense part of the human condition through the millennia.  These struggles run deep.  One needs only to observe the immense efforts it took to build Stonehenge and the pyramids to recognize that this struggle has figuratively and literally moved mountains.

Christianity addresses death with the Mass for the Dead or “Requiem” focusing on the departed.  Musical settings of the liturgy do likewise.  To compose his Requiem, Brahms chose a different path using texts from the Lutheran Bible and the Apocrypha which offer the living consolation, reassurance and comfort. 

Early work on the composition was a result at the loss of his friend Robert Schumann.  In the fall of 1861, he laid out the text and some initial melodies of a four-movement cantata but set it aside to fulfill other responsibilities.  Then, on February 2, 1865, a telegram informed Brahms that his mother had suffered a stroke and was dying.  He hastily departed for Hamburg but arrived too late.  Troubled and depressed, he returned to his unfinished Requiem.  Within two months he had completed the first, second, and fourth movements.  Again, his heavy concert schedule intervened.  It took until August 1866 to complete the remainder of the work, except for the fifth movement.

The six-movement work received its first performance under the composer's baton in Bremen Cathedral on Good Friday in 1868.  Soon after the premiere he added the fifth movement, with soprano solo, which is a tribute to his mother's memory.  From its premiere in Leipzig in February 1869, the piece quickly attained the rank of a classic; it was heard in Germany over twenty times within the first year.

I urge you to attend the concert.  You will not be disappointed.  Center city quality music without having to deal with the driving, traffic and parking.