Friday, November 18, 2005

Ein deutsches requiem

It's the end of a busy week where I've not posted to this blog. Not that anyone's desperately waiting for my words of wisdom, of course. I'm going down to London tonight. This is becoming a weekly trip, and generally means that my social life is looking up. Tomorrow night I'll be going to a performance of Brahms' Ein deutsches requiem at St Giles Cripplegate, which I'm looking forward to. I've not been to an Anton Bruckner Choir concert before, despite having heard of them for years (they've recently had their 10 year anniversary) and a couple of my friends singing with the choir. It will be interesting to hear the requiem, which is unlike most other requiem masses in that it's all in German, and isn't based on the Latin Mass. Brahms took Luther's ideas about creating a vernacular liturgy and created his German requiem, using texts in German from various books of the Bible and Apocrypha.

There are a lot of requiem masses around - Verdi's is probably the one that most people think of: it's operatic, tremendous, and popularised by von Karajan's recording. My favourite is actually Durufle's. It's quite short, and doesn't include a setting of Dies irae, which most composers go to town on, and is based largely on plainsong. It's very beautiful, and works well in both small and large choir formats, though I'd recommend Westminster Cathedral Choir's recording. My other favourite is Britten's War Requiem, which is completely different. Britten set both the full text of the Latin mass, and interspersed poems and fragments by Wilfred Owen, sung in English. The conceit, of having these extremely pacifist and humanist poems written during a bloody war sung against a mass celebrating the dead, works very well, and is extremely moving. Having this year visited Coventry Cathedral for the first time, I can only imagine the effect of its first performance in that building after all that had gone before.

I wonder if I'll find Brahms' interpretation of the requiem so thought-provoking?


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