Johannes Brahms (1833 – 1897) was a German composer,
pianist, and conductor of the Romantic period. Born in
Hamburg into a Lutheran family, Brahms spent much of
his professional life in Vienna. His reputation and
status as a composer are such that he is sometimes
grouped with Johann Sebastian Bach and Ludwig van
Beethoven as one of the "Three Bs" of music, a comment
originally made by the nineteenth-century conductor
Hans von Bülow. Brahms composed for symphony orchestra,
chamber ensembles, piano, organ, and voice and chorus.
A virtuoso pianist, he premiered many of his own works.
He worked with some of the leading performers of his
time, including the pianist Clara Schumann and the
violinist Joseph Joachim (the three were close
friends). Many of his works have become staples of the
modern concert repertoire. An uncompromising
perfectionist, Brahms destroyed some of his works and
left others unpublished.
Brahms has been considered, by his contemporaries and
by later writers, as both a traditionalist and an
innovator. His music is firmly rooted in the structures
and compositional techniques of the Classical masters.
While many contemporaries found his music too academic,
his contribution and craftsmanship have been admired by
subsequent figures as diverse as Arnold Schoenberg and
Edward Elgar. The diligent, highly constructed nature
of Brahms's works was a starting point and an
inspiration for a generation of composers. Embedded
within his meticulous structures, however, are deeply
A German Requiem, to Words of the Holy Scriptures, Op.
45 (German: Ein deutsches Requiem, nach Worten der
heiligen Schrift) by Johannes Brahms, is a large-scale
work for chorus, orchestra, a soprano and a baritone
soloist, composed between 1865 and 1868. It comprises
seven movements, which together last 65 to 80 minutes,
making this work Brahms's longest composition. A German
Requiem is sacred but non-liturgical, and unlike a long
tradition of the Latin Requiem, A German Requiem, as
its title states, is a Requiem in the German
Brahms's mother died in February 1865, a loss that
caused him much grief and may well have inspired Ein
deutsches Requiem. Brahms's lingering feelings over
Robert Schumann's death in July 1856 may also have been
a motivation, though his reticence about such matters
makes this uncertain.
His original conception was for a work of six
movements; according to their eventual places in the
final version, these were movements I–IV and VI–VII. By
the end of April 1865, Brahms had completed the first,
second, and fourth movements. The second movement used
some previously abandoned musical material written in
1854, the year of Schumann's mental collapse and
attempted suicide, and of Brahms's move to Düsseldorf
to assist Clara Schumann and her young children.
Brahms completed all but what is now the fifth movement
by August 1866. Johann Herbeck conducted the first
three movements in Vienna on 1 December 1867. This
partial premiere went poorly due to a misunderstanding
in the timpanist's score. Sections marked as pf were
played as f or ff, essentially drowning out the rest of
the ensemble in the fugal section of the third
movement. The first performance of the six movements
premiered in the Bremen Cathedral six months later on
Good Friday, 10 April 1868, with Brahms conducting and
Julius Stockhausen as the baritone soloist. The
performance was a great success and marked a turning
point in Brahms's career.
In May 1868 Brahms composed an additional movement,
which became the fifth movement within the final work.
The new movement, which was scored for soprano soloist
and choir, was first sung in Zürich on 12 September
1868 by Ida Suter-Weber, with Friedrich Hegar
conducting the Tonhalle Orchester Zürich. The final,
seven-movement version of A German Requiem was
premiered in Leipzig on 18 February 1869 with Carl
Reinecke conducting the Gewandhaus Orchestra and
Chorus, and soloists Emilie Bellingrath-Wagner and
Although originally created for Orchestra & Organ, I
created this Interpretation of the "Herr, lehre doch
mich" (Lord, teach me) from "Ein Deutsches Requiem"
(Op. 45 No. 3) for Oboe & Strings (2 Violins, 2 Violas,
2 Cellos & Bass).