Overture Magazine - 2015-2016 Season March-April 2016 - Page 18

{ program notes outer sections emphasizing stately dotted rhythms enclosing a faster, fugal middle section. Here the music is very grand indeed, with its majestic rising phrases italicized by the brilliance of the trumpets and the roll of the kettledrum. This is followed by an Air, a pair of Gavottes, a Bourrée, and a buoyantly bounding Gigue to finish. The Air is one of Bach’s most famous and loveliest creations. Adapted for solo violin by A. Wilhelmj in 1871, it has become almost too familiar as the “Air on the G String.” But listen to how much more beautiful it sounds in Bach’s original setting, with the two violin parts and the violas weaving in rich counterpoint above the walking bass-line. Instrumentation: Two oboes, bassoon, three trumpets, timpani, harpsichord, and strings. A German Requiem, opus 45 Johannes Brahms Born in Hamburg, Germany, May 7, 1833; died in Vienna, Austria, April 3, 1897 HONY P E A B O DY SY M P ORCHE STR A nductor Leon Fleisher, guest co Symphony adeus Mozart: Wolfgang Am upiter” “J 1, 55 or, K. No. 41 in C maj y No. 2 on ph m aninoff: Sy Sergei Rachm . 27 in E minor, Op Saturday, April 30 at 8:00 pm Miriam A. Friedberg Concert Hall $15 Adults, $10 Seniors, $5 Students For tickets, call 410-234-4800 or visit peabody.jhu.edu/events. 16 O v ertur e | www. bsomusic .org In early February 1865, Johannes Brahms received a telegram from his brother, Fritz, in Hamburg: “If you want to see our mother again, come at once.” The composer traveled as fast as he could from Vienna, but arrived too late; Christiane Brahms had already died of a stroke at age 76. Though he maintained a stoical face before his family, Brahms was devastated by the loss of the mother who had stood lovingly by him through all his trials and triumphs. After he returned to Vienna, his friend Josef Gänsbacher dropped in at his apartment and found him playing Bach’s Goldberg Variations with tears streaming down his face. Brahms briefly told Gänsbacher of his loss, but never stopped playing. That grief would generate the composer’s longest and most profound work: A German Requiem (Ein Deutsches Requiem), mostly composed over a one-year period from 1865 to 1866. But the music for this masterpiece had been gestating for at least a decade, and it was originally intended as a memorial to Robert Schumann, Brahms’ discoverer and mentor. Thus A German Requiem is actually a memorial to two important people in Brahms’ life: his biological mother and his artistic father. And it was an intensely personal and original work. Unlike most musical requiems, it is not based on the liturgical Catholic rite for the dead, a service emphasizing prayers for the souls of the departed. Rather, it is an idiosyncratic Protestant setting, with its text drawn by Brahms himself from the Old and New Testaments and the Apocrypha of Martin Luther’s German Bible. The emphasis is not on the dead but on finding consolation for the living, as stated in the Requiem’s very first line from St. Matthew’s Gospel, “Blessed are they that mourn.” A word about Brahms’ own religious stance: The composer was raised in the Protestant tradition and remained a faithful reader of the Bible throughout his life. But in adulthood, he became a religious skeptic bordering on agnosticism and was never a churchgoer. The text he assembled for his Requiem expresses more or less his own convictions: a universal, nondenominational message, but not a specifically Christian one. Premiered in Leipzig on February 18, 1869, A German Requiem is a strikingly original work with few parallels before or since. Listening to the Music Constructing solid musical architecture was always an important concern for Brahms, and so the Requiem is shaped as a mighty arch. The quieter, more restrained first and last movements mirror each other, as do the more dramatic and forceful second and sixth movements, and the more personal third and fifth movements dominated by solo voices. The wellloved fourth movement, “How lovely are Thy dwelling places,” stands alone as an intimate and untroubled central interlude. Even though it is in the major mode — F Major, the Requiem’s home key — movement one, “Blessed are they who mourn,” is weighed down with grief. Brahms chose a very dark-toned ensemble: violas, cellos, double basses, and the more somber wind colors, omitting the brighter sounds of clarinets, trumpets, and even violins. The first melody we hear, in the