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In his first MSO performance as Conductor Laureate, Sir Andrew Davis returns to conduct one of the most moving tributes to grief and remembrance, Brahms’ Ein deutsches Requiem.
Brahms called it Ein deutsches Requiem to distinguish it from the Latin kind, to lift it from the merely religious, making of it something humanist and secular. A German requiem was not specifically for the German people; Brahms’ wanted it to speak to all humanity. A transcendent choral work, with gloriously tender parts for baritone and soprano, it is a work that speaks to the best of us.
Brahms began composing Ein deutsches Requiem early in 1865, only a month or so after the death of his mother. The profound sense of loss and overwhelming grief of that time is unmistakably threaded throughout the music. But there’s also a wondrous feeling of gratitude. Where most requiems focus on the dead, Brahms’ begins with the living. The first words sung are “Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted”.
This concert will also feature two works by Beethoven; a fitting tribute to the man whose bust stared down at Brahms while he composed. Firstly, we have the rarely-heard King Stephen Overture, which was commissioned by Emperor Francis I of Austria. Second is the stunning, emotionally tempestuous concert aria Ah! perfido, most famously sung by Maria Callas.