a German Requiem

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Johannes Brahms around 1866

A German Requiem for words of Scripture , op 45, is the work of. Composer Johannes Brahms for soprano - and baritone - solo , choir and orchestra .

Genre and text selection

A requiem is generally understood to mean the liturgy of the funeral mass of the Catholic Church or church music compositions to commemorate the dead. Brahms, who grew up in Evangelical-Lutheran Hamburg, did not base his selection of texts on the traditional canon of the Requiem as a funeral mass, but rather selected texts from the Old and New Testaments in the version of the Luther Bible that contained the consolation of the bereaved is the focus. Brahms showed how familiar he was with the biblical texts and psalms , and designed his German Requiem not as funeral music, but to comfort those “who suffer”, that is, music for the living that is serious, dignified and confident. The work cannot and should therefore not do justice to the church music genre of the requiem; In terms of its layout - especially its line-up - it can be called an oratorio , even if the dramatic component is missing. In the text sequence, it is closest to the evangelical motet of earlier times.


Singing: solo soprano , solo baritone and four-part choir .

Orchestra: two flutes , piccolo , two oboes , two clarinets in A and B, two bassoons , contrabassoon ad libitum , four horns , two trumpets , three trombones , tuba , timpani , two harps (unison), strings , organ ad libitum. ( Although this organ part is missing in the score of the first edition, it was added to the set of parts. It comes from Joh. Brahms himself. The contrabassoon part was written out according to Brahms' instructions, which can be found in his personal copy, and initially only added to the Vienna parts which he used for his performances. There is no reference to this anywhere in the first edition, only the score of the complete edition [ed. Eusebius Mandyczewski] added this around 1927. )

History of origin

In 1858 Johannes Brahms set sacred texts to music for the first time (“Ave Maria” op. 12 and “Funeral Song” op. 13). In 1861 he began to compile the texts for the Requiem . First, the texts for sentences I – IV were written; Brahms noted this on the back of the fourth song of his Magelonen Romanzen op. 33. In 1861 he also composed the first two movements. After his mother's death in 1865, he seems to have resumed work on the work; in the spring of 1865 the fourth movement was composed, which Brahms sent to Clara Schumann as a piano reduction . Movement III was probably created during a long stay with the friend and photographer Julius Allgeyer in Karlsruhe , movements VI and VII probably in the summer of 1866 in Lichtenthal (near Baden-Baden ) and / or in Winterthur . Today's movement V was composed in May 1868 and added to the work after the first performances.

The first three movements - one did not want to “expect more” of the audience - were premiered at the beginning of December 1867 by the Wiener Singverein in a concert of the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde in Vienna . A letter from Brahms' friend Joseph Joachim to his wife (December 1, 1867) contradicts the claim that the performance (as it was called in an earlier version of this article) experienced a “blatant failure” ; There it is said that the audience listened "with sympathy", "a compact little party" even "with dedication and enthusiasm", while "some hissing rabble [...] could not achieve victory". The applause lasted until Brahms came "from the hall over the stairs to the orchestra". One problem with the performance, which Eduard Hanslick reviewed positively overall, was that the timpani played much too loudly at the long organ point of the final fugue of No. 3 (“The Righteous Souls”). The first performance of the then six-movement work in its entirety on Good Friday , April 10, 1868, in the Bremen Cathedral under the musical direction of Brahms, after the rehearsal by the Bremen cathedral music director Carl Martin Reinthaler, was much more popular . In this performance five other pieces were inserted after the third movement of the Requiem (violin solo by Joseph Joachim, “Mercy” from Bach's St. Matthew Passion and from Handel's Messiah “See, this is God's Lamb”, “I know that my Redeemer lives "And" Hallelujah ").

The fifth movement, which was still missing at this concert, was only inserted afterwards, with views diverging as to who suggested the addition (Reinthaler is named as well as Brahms' old teacher Eduard Marxsen ). The complete work, as we know it today, had its world premiere on February 18, 1869 in the Leipzig Gewandhaus ; However, on January 3, 1869, there had already been a private performance of the piano reduction version with a small choir and soloists in Dessau, as Brahms learned from his friend Adolf Schubring.

Background and reception

His religious background was already discussed during Johannes Brahms' lifetime. Heinrich von Herzogenberg assessed his oeuvre as testimony to a “core Protestant and deeply religious man”. During the preparations for the premiere of the Requiem , Carl Martin Reinthaler noted in an exchange of letters with him that there was no reference to Christ in the text composition . Brahms merely replied that he had dispensed with these references “with all knowledge and will”. Since his sacred works do not have a liturgical connection and were not composed on behalf of the church , they are characterized by a transverse nature of autonomous art, which became increasingly important in the 19th century in the course of secularization . Through the enthusiastic article Neue Bahnen , which Robert Schumann had published in his Neue Zeitschrift für Musik , Brahms was confronted very early on with an art-religious expectation and pushed into the role of the musical messiah . He himself opposed the religious exaltation of art and used the term human work in connection with Clara Schumann .

In the field of tension between liberalism and political Catholicism , represented in Vienna by the anti-Semitic journalist Albert Wiesinger , he was assigned to the liberal camp. Brahms himself admitted that he could not “get rid of the inner theologian”, but on the other hand characterized his text selection as pagan.

“There is little to tell here, but I still have to tell you that I am completely and utterly fulfilled by your Requiem, it is a very powerful piece, affects the whole person in a way that little else does. The deep seriousness, combined with all the magic of poetry, has a wonderful, shocking and soothing effect. As you know, I can never really put it into words, but I feel the whole rich treasure of this work to the core, and the enthusiasm that speaks from each piece moves me deeply, so I cannot abstain from it to pronounce. ... Oh, if I could hear it, what would I give about it? ”Wrote Clara Schumann in a letter to Johannes Brahms after she had received the notes for the 6th and 7th movements from him.

"Since Bach's B minor Mass and Beethoven's Missa solemnis , nothing has been written that can stand alongside Brahms' German Requiem in this area," said the hard-to-get enthusiastic Viennese music critic Eduard Hanslick . The Requiem was the breakthrough for the 33-year-old composer and one of his most popular works.


The addition of Sentence V results in a symmetrical structure around Sentence IV, which describes the “lovely homes of the Lord”. Sentences I and VII begin with “Blessed are ...”, sentence I being taken from the Beatitudes in the Sermon on the Mount, sentence VII from the Revelation of John . Musically, too, these two - mostly restrained - movements are related to each other, especially at the end. Sentences II and VI are designed dramatically, sentence II emphasizes transience (“Because all flesh, it is like grass”), sentence VI the resurrection (“See, I tell you a secret”). Movements III and V begin with a solo part. In movement III the baritone asks (“Lord, teach me”), the choir repeats the text several times in a generalizing way. In movement V, on the other hand, the soprano and the choir sing different text, "You now have sadness" versus "I want to console you". In the whole work, unlike in baroque oratorios, for example, the soloists do not sing arias, but are part of the overall architecture. Almost all sentences - with the exception of IV and VII - are based on a sequence of several Bible passages, each meaningfully leading from suffering and grief to consolation. The last word is - like the first - "blessed".

Text and music

The following table lists the beginnings of lines for new text within the sentences. Changes in the biblical source often also result in a change in the character of the music, which is described by key , tempo and measure . The choir sings for four voices, with the exception of a few chords, and is almost continuously the bearer of the action. For some sentences Brahms found German descriptions for speed and expression, others he gave the usual Italian information .

text solo key tempo Tact Bible
Blessed are those who suffer F major Quite slow and with expression 44 Mt 5,4  LUT
Those who sow with tears will reap with joy D flat major Ps 126,5-6  LUT
Blessed are those who suffer F major
Because all meat, it's like grass B flat minor Slowly, march-like 34 1 Petr 1,24  LUT
So be patient now G flat major A little more moving Jak 5,7  LUT
Because all meat, it's like grass B flat minor Tempo I
But the word of the Lord endures forever B flat major Un poco sostenuto 1 Petr 1,25a  LUT
The Lord's redeemed will come again B flat major Allegro non troppo 44 Isa 35,10a  LUT
eternal joy B flat major Tranquillo Isa 35,10b  LUT
Mister, teach me bar D minor Andante moderato 22 Ps 39,5-6a  LUT
Oh, like nothing bar F major 32 Ps 39,6b-8a  LUT
I hope for you D major Ps 39,8b  LUT
The righteous souls are in God's hands D major 42 Wis 3,1  LUT
How lovely are your apartments E flat major Moderately agitated 34 Ps 84,2-3.5  LUT
You have sadness now Sop G major Slowly 44 Joh 16,22  LUT
I want to comfort you D major Isa 66,13a  LUT
Look at me Sop B majorB major Sir 51,27  LUT
I want to comfort you B majorD major
You have sadness now Sop strongly modulating
I want to comfort you G major
Because we have no permanent place here C minor Andante 44 Heb 13:14  LUT
See, I am telling you a secret bar C minorF sharp minorC minor 1 Cor 15 : 51-52a  LUT
For the trumpet will sound C minor Vivace 34 1 Cor 15,52b  LUT
Then it will be fulfilled bar 1 Cor 15,54b  LUT
Death is swallowed up in victory very strongly modulating 1 Cor 15,54c-55  LUT
Lord you are worthy C major Allegro 42 Rev 4:11  LUT
Blessed are the dead F major Solemnly 44 Rev 14,13b  LUT
Yes, the Spirit speaks that they rest A major Rev 14,13c  LUT
Blessed are the dead F major

Musical details

No. information admission
1 Chorus: Blessed are those who suffer
key Time signature designation
F. 4/4 time Fairly slow and expressive (bars 1–158)
Audio file / audio sample listen ? / i
2 Chorus: Because all meat, it's like grass
key Time signature designation
b 34 Slow, march-like semper legato mezza voce (bars 1–43)
semper legato (bars 43–74)
Ges Somewhat agitated dolce espr. (Bars 74–126)
b Tempo I (exact repetitions 1–74)
B. Un poco sostenuto (bars 198–205)
4/4 time Allegro non troppo (bars 206–302)
tranquillo (bars 303–337)
Audio file / audio sample listen ? / i
3 Baritone and choir: Lord, teach me that there has to be an end with me.
key Time signature designation
d alla breve Andante moderato (bars 1–104)
F. 32 (Bars 105–163)
D. (Bars 164–172)
alla breve (Bars 173-208)
Audio file / audio sample listen ? / i
4th Chorus: How lovely are your apartments, Mr. Zebaoth
key Time signature designation
It 34 Moderately agitated (bars 1–179)
Audio file / audio sample listen ? / i
5 Soprano: You now have sadness.
Choir: I want to console you
key Time signature designation
G 4/4 time Slow (bars 1–82)
Audio file / audio sample listen ? / i
6th Chorus: Because we have no permanent instead of a
baritone: See, I'm telling you a secret
key Time signature designation
c 4/4 time Andante (bars 1–31)
f sharp (Bars 32-71) [from bar 68 accelerando]
c (Bars 72–81)
34 Vivace (bars 82–207)
C. alla breve Allegro (bars 208–349)
Audio file / audio sample listen ? / i
7th Chorus: Blessed are the dead
key Time signature designation
F. 4/4 time Solemn (bars 1–47)
A. (Bars 48–101)
F. (Bars 102–166)
Audio file / audio sample listen ? / i


The so-called London version of the Requiem is an arrangement for choir and piano. There are different opinions about the creation of this version. It is commonly referred to as a handwritten arrangement by Brahms for the first performance of the work in London in 1871. According to recent research, a four-hand piano arrangement published by Brahms himself in 1869 was used for this performance, which was actually intended for domestic music-making without a choir. The choir part was only partially deleted from the piano parts.

Theodor Kirchner wrote a version for piano solo. Robert Schaab created a concert version for organ of movements IV (“How lovely are your apartments”) and VI (“Because we have no permanent place here”).

Heinrich Poos wrote an arrangement for solos, choir, two pianos and timpani. In 2010 Ingo Schulz published the work in a version for chamber orchestra and choir. In terms of the set notes, this is very close to the original work, but has significantly reduced instruments. The performance material of this version is freely available online. Also in 2010 Joachim Linckelmann published a version for chamber orchestra and choir by Carus-Verlag .

Wilhelm Kaiser-Lindemann arranged the fourth movement “How lovely are your apartments” for the 12 cellists of the Berlin Philharmonic . These brought the arrangement to the public for the first time on the occasion of the Schumann Festival in the Tonhalle Düsseldorf on June 4, 2012. The performance material for this has been published by euthentic edition.

Based on a 1963 template by the American Norris L. Stephens, the St. Gallen cathedral organist Willibald Guggenmos created a version for choir, organ and timpani in 2014.


The soprano solo (5th movement) is very demanding, but can be sung well for high sopranos. Brahms himself allowed the soprano to have lower ossia notes in some places , but these are rarely heard. The real problem, however, is that the singers have to wait a very long time - up to 45 minutes (!) Depending on the conductor - until their first entry - which is then very high - comes. You are not really 'singed in'. So some conductors take a short break and let the soloist perform later.

Recordings (selection)

year conductor soprano baritone Choir orchestra Label annotation
1947 Herbert von Karajan Elisabeth Schwarzkopf Hans Hotter Wiener Singverein Wiener Philharmoniker EMI
1948 Wilhelm Furtwängler Kerstin Lindberg-Torlind Bernhard Sönnerstedt Musikaliska Sallskapet Kör Stockholms Konsertförenings Orkester Desert Island Archipelago Collection Stockholm, November 19, 1948
1954 Bruno Walter Irmgard Seefried George London Westminster Choir New York Philharmonic Sony
1955 Rudolf Kempe Elisabeth Grümmer Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau Choir of St. Hedwig's Cathedral Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra EMI
1957 Sergiu Celibidache Agnes Gable Hans Hotter Cologne Radio Choir Cologne Radio Symphony Orchestra Audiophile classics Cologne, October 28, 1957
1960 Sergiu Celibidache Agnes Gable Hermann Prey Coro di Milano della RAI Orchestra Sinfonica di Milano della RAI IDIS Live recording in Milan, February 19, 1960
1961 Otto Klemperer Elisabeth Schwarzkopf Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau Philharmonia Chorus Philharmonia Orchestra EMI
1964 Herbert von Karajan Gundula Janowitz Eberhard Waechter Wiener Singverein Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra Deutsche Grammophon
1967 Ernest Ansermet Agnes Gable Hermann Prey Chorale de la Suisse Romande Orchester de la Suisse Romande Decca Records
1968 Erich Leinsdorf Montserrat Caballé Sherrill Milnes New England Conservatory Chorus Boston Symphony Orchestra RCA
1971 Matthias Büchel Herrat Eicker Bernd Weikl Choir of the Gütersloh Music Association North German Philharmonic Eurodisc
1972 Daniel Barenboim Edith Mathis Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau Edinburgh Festival Chorus London Philharmonic Orchestra Deutsche Grammophon
1976 Herbert von Karajan Anna Tomowa-Sintow José van Dam Wiener Singverein Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra EMI
1977 Lorin Maazel Ileana Cotrubas Hermann Prey New Philharmonia Chorus New Philharmonia Orchestra Sony
1978 Carlo Maria Giulini Ileana Cotrubas Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau Edinburgh International Festival Chorus London Philharmonic Orchestra BBC Music
1983 Giuseppe Sinopoli Lucia Popp Wolfgang Brendel Prague Philharmonic Choir Czech Philharmonic Deutsche Grammophon
1983 Herbert von Karajan Barbara Hendricks José van Dam Wiener Singverein Wiener Philharmoniker Deutsche Grammophon
1985 Herbert Kegel Mari Anne Häggander Siegfried Lorenz Leipzig Radio Choir Leipzig Radio Symphony Orchestra Capriccio
1985 Georg Solti Kiri Te Kanawa Bernd Weikl Chicago Symphony Chorus Chicago Symphony Orchestra Decca Records
1987 Carlo Maria Giulini Barbara Bonney Andreas Schmidt Concert Association of the Vienna State Opera Choir Wiener Philharmoniker Deutsche Grammophon
1991 Helmuth Rilling Donna Brown Gilles cache enamel Gächinger Kantorei Stuttgart Bach Collegium Stuttgart Hänssler Classic
1993 Roger Norrington Lynne Dawson Olaf Bear The Schütz Choir of London The London Classical Players EMI
1995 Kurt Masur Sylvia McNair Håkan Hagegård Westminster Symphonic Choir New York Philharmonic Teldec Live recording in New York, 1995
1996 Philippe Herreweghe Christiane Oelze Gerald Finley Collegium Vocale Gent Orchester des Champs-Elysees Harmonia Mundi
2007 Simon Rattle Dorothea Röschmann Thomas Quasthoff Rundfunkchor Berlin Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra EMI
2010 Nikolaus Harnoncourt Genia Kühmeier Thomas Hampson Arnold Schoenberg Choir Wiener Philharmoniker Red Seal
2012 John Eliot Gardiner Katharina Fuge Matthew Brook Monteverdi Choir Orchester Révolutionnaire et Romantique Solos Deo Gloria
2015 Mariss Jansons Genia Kühmeier Gerald Finley Groot Omroepkoor Concertgebouw Orchestra RCO
2016 Jan Willem de Vriend Renate Arends Thomas Oliemans Rotterdam Symphony Chorus Residentie Orkest Challenge Classics Live recording Scheveningen, 2016

Editing in recording

  • 2010 Coviello Classics: Simon Halsey (conductor), Rundfunkchor Berlin (version for piano four hands by Johannes Brahms in an arrangement for choir, solos and piano duo by Phillip Moll), Marlis Petersen (soprano), Konrad Jarnot (baritone), Philip Mayers , Phillip Moll (piano)
  • 2010 musik-art: Ingo Schulz (conductor), Stefanie Wüst, Alban Lenzen, Ölberg-Chor (version for chamber orchestra by Ingo Schulz [2010])


  • A German requiem according to the words of Heil. Script for solos, choir and orchestra (organ ad libitum); op.45 score. Leipzig (among others): Rieter-Biedermann, [1868]
Digitized version of the first edition, a copy from the Lübeck City Library with a dedication by the Plöner Gesangverein to Carl Stiehl
  • Klaus Blum: Hundred Years A German Requiem by Johannes Brahms. Creation, premiere, interpretation, appreciation. Schneider, Tutzing 1971.
  • Norbert Bolin: Johannes Brahms. A German Requiem (= series of publications by the International Bach Academy Stuttgart , Volume 13). Bärenreiter, Kassel 2009, ISBN 978-3-7618-1917-3 .
  • Dieter Feldtmann: Johannes Brahms - a German Requiem in Hamburg: a performance and reception story. Lang, Frankfurt am Main 2012, ISBN 978-3-631-62441-8 .
  • Michael Heinemann : Johannes Brahms. A German Requiem based on the words of the Holy Scriptures, op. 45. An introduction. Hainholz, Göttingen 1998, ISBN 3-932622-36-7 .
  • Sven Hiemke: Johannes Brahms. A German Requiem (= Bärenreiter factory introduction) . Bärenreiter, Kassel 2018, ISBN 978-3-761-81251-8 .
  • Michael Musgrave: Brahms, A German Requiem. Cambridge University Press, New York 1996. ISBN 0-521-40995-0 .
  • Helmuth Rilling : Johannes Brahms, A German Requiem. Carus, Stuttgart 2016, ISBN 978-3-89948-280-5 .
  • Wolfgang Sandberger (Ed.): "I want to console you ..." Johannes Brahms - A German Requiem (= publications of the Brahms Institute at the Lübeck Music Academy, Vol. 6). Edition Text + Criticism, Munich 2012, ISBN 978-3-86916-218-8 .

Web links

Commons : A German Requiem  album with pictures, videos and audio files
Wikisource: A German Requiem  - Sources and full texts

References and comments

  1. a b quotation from Jan Brachmann: Brahms between religion and art . In: Wolfgang Sandberger (Ed.): Brahms Handbook. Metzler / Bärenreiter, Stuttgart / Kassel 2009, ISBN 978-3-476-02233-2 , p. 129.
  2. ^ A b Jan Brachmann: Brahms between religion and art . In: Wolfgang Sandberger (Ed.): Brahms Handbook. Metzler / Bärenreiter, Stuttgart / Kassel 2009, ISBN 978-3-476-02233-2 , p. 129.
  3. Frank Reinisch: Afterword. In: Johannes Brahms: A German Requiem. Piano reduction (= Breitkopf Edition 6071). Breitkopf & Härtel, Wiesbaden undated, p. 96.
  4. The recording was made in 2001 by The Holden Consort Orchestra and Choir .
  5. See e.g. B. Nicolas Radulescu on the piano version of Brahms' Requiem ( Memento of the original from March 9, 2016 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was automatically inserted and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. . @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot / www.nicolas-radulescu.com
  6. Michael Struck: Requiem in changing shapes - work, utility, phantom and performance versions. In: Wolfgang Sandberger (Ed.): "I want to console you ...". Johannes Brahms - A German Requiem. Symposium - Exhibition - Catalog. Edition Text + Critique, München 2012, pp. 27–32.
  7. ^ Leonard Van Camp: A Practical Guide for Performing, Teaching, and Singing the Brahms Requiem . Lawson-Gould Music Publishers, New York 2002, ISBN 0-7579-9859-3 , p. 9 ( limited preview in Google Book Search).
  8. Johannes Brahms: A German Requiem . Program booklet for the premiere of the version for chamber orchestra and choir by Ingo Schulz , “Loses Blatt”, Berlin 2010.
  9. Notes from the arrangement by Ingo Schulz .
  10. Catalog entry at Carus ( Memento of the original from January 17, 2013 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. .  @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot / www.carus-verlag.com
  11. ^ Concert of the 12 cellists at the Schumann Festival in Düsseldorf .
  12. Catalog entry (PDF; 227 kB) at euthentic edition.