In February 2021, nearly a year into the COVID-19 pandemic, this breathtakingly beautiful performance of Brahms’s Ein deutsches Requiem (A German Requiem) served both as a poignant tribute to lives lost and a reminder of the importance of art during difficult times. From the back of the stage, Maestro Gianandrea Noseda leads the impeccable Philharmonia Zurich through Brahms’s masterpiece, while the spectacular singers of the Zürich Opera Chorus and Zürcher Sing-Akademie spread out to fill every section of the sumptuous Zürich Opera House with the sounds of one of the most sublime requiem masses ever composed. Soprano Lydia Teuscher is “all that one could wish for,” baritone Konstantin Shushakov “magnificent” and “commanding,” in the challenging solo roles (Seen and Heard International).
Brahms’s longest work, Ein deutsches Requiem was composed shortly after the death of his mother between 1865 and 1868. The agnostic but deeply humanist composer, who assembled the libretto himself in his native German, chose to avoid explicitly Christian dogma and focused on the consolation of the living: “Blessed are those who mourn,” the work opens, “for they shall be comforted.” The first partial performance was marred by a misunderstanding in the score by a timpanist, who played so loudly in the third movement that he drowned out the entire ensemble. Happily, the full premiere a few months later was a resounding success, establishing the young Brahms’s international reputation and taking a place of honor in the liturgial repertoire for centuries to come.
Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra