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The Southeast Kansas Symphony Orchestra
Raul Munguia - Artistic Director & Conductor

2004-05 Season

Sunday, May 1st, 2005
~ 3:00 p.m. ~
First United Methodist Church

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Brahms ~ German Requiem
May 1st, 2005
Program Notes

Ein deutsches Requiem, Op.45 (German Requiem)

Johannes Brahms (1833-1897)

I. Chorus: Selig sind, die da Leid Iragen
II. Chorus: Denn alles Fleisch es ist \Vic Gras
III. Baritone Solo and Chorus: Herr, Ichrc doch mich
IV. Chorus: Wie lieblich sind deine Wohnungen
V. Soprano Solo and Chorus: Ihr habt nun Traurigkeit
VI. Baritone Solo and Chorus: Denn wir haben hie keine bleibende Stall
VII. Chorus: Selig sind die Toten

Last SEKSO Performance:
Completed/Written In:
First Performed: info
Another Fact: more info

"Where the text is concerned, I want to confess that I would happily omit even the word 'German' (in the title) and simply set 'Human' ..."

- Brahms in a leiter to Karl Reinthaler

Ein deutsches Requiem (A German Requiem) had a long and somewhat involved birth. Brahms mentioned the piece in letters to Clara Schumann as early as 1865, but likely did not begin composition until 1866. Scholars have long sought a reason for Brahms's decision to write a requiem at all, especially since he was then only in his thirties, hardly an age at which one might be expected to have felt enough of the world's cares to turn to such a weighty subject.

Brahms had had a childhood that was far from idyllic, however, having grown up in straitened circumstances, and he spent most of his adulthood helping to support his parents and his older sister, Elise, who suffered from ill health throughout her life. The second child of surprisingly mismatched parents (Johanna Christiane, a humble, crippled seamstress descended from gentility, was seventeen years older than Johann Jakob, an ardent but limited musician known to his fellow players as a cheerful "blockhead"), Brahms and his siblings never knew luxury, or indeed anything approaching it, but the conventional wisdom that he spent his youth in sordid surroundings, playing the piano for prostitutes in sailors' bars, has since been challenged by more recent scholarship. The neighborhoods in which he grew up, while many of them later descended into slums, were at the time solidly working class, although the family's living quarters were usually extremely cramped and unprepossessing. His parents recognized the boy's musical talents at an early age, and money was found to give him piano, cello, and horn lessons. as well as a thorough academic education. He in turn contributed to the family's income after leaving school by giving piano lessons himself, performing in local restaurants, and in arranging music for local bands, but probably not in brothels at all, as his respectable mother at least would certainly have balked at such a thing. Financial worries finally drove his parents apart, which distressed the young man greatly, as he was close to both his parents but especially adored his mother, and he worked unsuccessfully toward a reconciliation between his parents until his mother died in 1865.

Her death date is surely not coincidental when one considers Brahms's decision to write a requiem, but there had been an earlier bereavement in his life when he lost his friend and champion, Robert Schumann, first to madness, and then to death in 1856. Brahms's adoration of Clara Schumann is well known, but he was nonetheless devoted to her husband, as they were to him. He helped to support Clara and the children while Robert was institutionalized, and while their love was (probably) never fulfilled, they remained the closest of friends to the end of their lives. It seems probable, then, that the Requiem was influenced by the deaths of both his mother and Schumann.

It could perhaps be argued that A German Requiem isn't really a requiem at all, as Brahms does not use the ancient Catholic text anywhere in his setting. Instead, he chose his own texts from the vernacular German supplied by Martin Luther's translation of the Bible and the Apocrypha. What is particularly striking about Brahms's choice of texts (beyond his thorough knowledge of scripture) is that he completely eschews any references not only to judgment, damnation and suffering, but also to Christ, speaking instead of God's love and redemption, without naming Christ as the vessel of that redemption - indeed, the closest he comes to acknowledging Christ is in selecting the text for the first movement from the Beatitudes and the fifth from the Gospel of John, without identifying the speaker in either case. Brahms was a deeply spiritual, if not conventionally religious, man, and something of a dichotomy, being shy, introverted, and given to melancholy ("I never laugh on the inside," he once confessed), yet often autocratic, and generally quite stubborn. Raised a Lutheran, and always deeply private about his faith, he came to consider himself an agnostic, and his interest was not in constructing yet another bombastic, hellfire and brimstone warning, but rather a work that celebrated God's grace, a solace not for the dead, but concerned rather with comforting the living, left behind to mourn.

The Requiem was composed in stages, with a performance of the first three movements in Vienna in December of 1867. It was hardly an unqualified success. The first two movements apparently were well received, but the third movement was, in Brahms's words, "soundly hissed," due largely, apparently, to the zeal of the timpanist, who misread the musical direction and repeatedly smashed his low D with such abandon that he managed to obliterate the rest of the orchestra. The complete work (minus the fifth movement) was triumphantly redeemed in a performance on the Good Friday of 1868 in Bremen, with Brahms himself conducting, and Clara Schumann was deeply moved: "... the Requiem has taken hold of me as no sacred music ever did before... It was a joy such as I have not felt for a long time." The fifth movement, which speaks of being comforted by God as one is comforted by a mother, was first performed privately in September of 1868, and many people have assumed that it was directly inspired by the death of Brahms's mother, although Brahms denied this. Surely, however, we can assume that his closeness to his gentle mother played a hand in the tender way he chose to shape the movement, as perhaps did his grief over his inability to reach her deathbed in time after receiving news of her stroke. The first full public performance of the Requiem as it now stands was in Leipzig in February of 1869, and it set Brahms firmly on the path of international stardom.

There is perhaps some correlation between Brahms's German Requiem and a more traditional requiem setting, at least loosely. The musical motive from the first movement's "Selig sind, die da Leid tragen" ("Blessed are they that have sorrow") returns for the final statements of "Selig sind die Toten" ("Blessed are the dead") of the seventh movement, helping to create a sense of overall unity. Brahms also gives a great deal of attention to the Last Trumpet ("tuba mirum" in Latin, 'der letzten Posaune" in German), although Brahms moves the placement from the second movement (the threatening "Dies irae" of the Requiem) to the sixth movement, and for Brahms the trumpet call is more triumphal than menacing. Some scholars align the lyrical "Wie lieblich sind deine Wohnungen" ("How lovely are your dwellings") with the respite of the "Sanctus" ("Holy, holy, holy"), as both stand in central positions and the Sanctus tends to be a moment that allows composers of blood and thunder settings to contemplate instead the ethereal joys awaiting the redeemed. Further, Brahms's Requiem, although not intended for liturgical use, shares texts with both the Lutheran and Anglican funeral services. The structure of the entire work forms an arch. The first and seventh movements are easily identified with each other, given the similarity of their texts of blessing and the shared musical material given to those texts. The second and sixth movements, the two longest movements of the work, each move from darkness to light, both tonally and textually. The third and fifth movements introduce soloists, the baritone and soprano respectively, and both are movements dealing with the idea of comfort - the baritone troubled, anxiously seeking; the soprano serenely offering assurance. The fourth movement, the most deeply beloved and most often excerpted, is the crown of the arch and brings the first moments of unalleviated joy, its long lines themselves forming soaring arches.

The rather unusual scoring of the first movement contributes to its dark richness, for the violins, clarinets, and much of the brass are omitted entirely, while the violas and cellos are divided (in a letter to Clara, Brahms described it as being "without violins but accompanied by a harp and other beautiful things"). Another feature of the first movement - very well hidden indeed is a brief quotation of the old German chorale "Wer nur den lieben Gott läßt walten" (usually translated as "If thou but suffer God to guide thee"), which will appear much more clearly in the second movement. Brahms himself remarked to Siegried Ochs, "If you can't hear it, it doesn't matter much," which is fortunate, as it is not only introduced as a fragment in the opening orchestral bars, but also in the major, rather than the minor, mode, so that even those who know the old chorales well could be forgiven for missing the reference entirely.

The music of the second movement of the Requiem is a funeral march, ominous and foreboding, propelled inexorably forward by the martial insistence of the timpani. The choir enters in a stark unison statement, finally unfolding the chorale hinted at in the opening movement. The music shifts to a gentle Ländler as the text speaks of the patience of the farmer, who waits for the precious fruit of the earth as the soul longs for the coming of the Lord, while the flute and harp dance lightly, like larks singing after the rain. The mood darkens as the funeral march returns, but the word of the Lord bursts forth triumphantly, and the redeemed leap forward toward Zion in a vigorous, athletic march.

The third movement begins bleakly, the baritone contemplating mortality and oblivion in short, faltering phrases. The chorus clamors insistently for reassurance, but after a brief, breathless pause, a statement of hope erupts into a jubilant fugue (the same fugue, with its thirty-six measures of pedal point D, that the timpanist trounced so thoroughly in that fateful first performance). The juxtaposition of the charming waltz of the fourth movement serves as the pivot point, as the entire work now subtly shifts away from doubt and toward joyous consolation.

This consolation is immediately apparent in the soprano solo of the fifth movement, which is in many ways the most profoundly personal through its almost mystical lyricism. The sixth movement is again briefly darker, echoing to the resigned tramping of pilgrims' feet as they travel, homeless, yet expectant, for they know that death is not the end. And indeed, when the last trumpet breaks forth, they can proclaim exultantly that death is subservient, death is vanquished - death, in fact, can be mocked with impunity, and the joyous momentum sweeps forward into a magnificently regal fugue.

The final movement is an act of consecration, spinning out long placid lines of benediction over the dead who now rest in the Lord, as the opening motive returns at the last to close the Requiem with a final, peaceful blessing that encompasses all under its sheltering wings.

Scored for: Soprano and baritone soloists, mixed chorus, 2 flutes, piccolo, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, contrabassoon, 4 horns, 2 trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba, timpani, hp, organ, and strings. [2222-4222-tmp-str]


Text & Translation

I

Selig sind, die da Leid tragen, denn sie sollen getröstet werden.
Die mit Tränen säen, werden mit Freuden ernten.
Sie gehen hin und weinen und tragen edlen Samen, und kommen mit Freuden und bringen ihre Garben.

Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.
They that sow in tears shall reap in joy.
They that go forth and weep, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing their sheaves with them.

II

Denn alles Fleisch es ist wie Gras und alle Herrlichkeit des Menschen wie des Grases Blumen. Das Gras ist verdorret und die Blume abgefallen.
So seid nun geduldig, lieben Brüder, bis auf die Zukunft des Herrn. Siehe, ein Ackermann wartet auf die köstliche Frucht der Erde und ist geduldig darüber, bis er empfahe den Morgenregen und Abendregen.
So seid nun geduldig.
Aber des Herrn Wort bleibet in Ewigkeit.
Die Erlöseten des Herrn werden wieder kommen und gen Zion kommen mit Jauchzen. Freude, ewige Freude wird über ihrem Haupte sein; Freude und Wonne werden sie ergreifen, und Schmerz und Seufzen wird weg müssen.

For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower thereof falleth away.
Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and has long patience for it, until he receive the morning and evening rain.
But the word of the Lord endureth for ever.
And the ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads: they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.

III

Herr, lehre doch mich, daß ein Ende mit mir haben muß, und mein Leben ein Ziel hat, und ich davon muß.
Siehe, meine Tage sind einer Handbreit vor dir, und mein Leben ist wie nichts vor dir.
Ach, wie gar nichts sind alle Menschen, die doch so sicher leben. Sie gehen daher wie ein Schemen, und machen ihnen viel vergebliche Unruhe; sie sammeln, und wissen nicht wer es kriegen wird. Nun, Herr, wes soll ich mich trösten? Ich hoffe auf dich.
Der Gerechten Seelen sind in Gottes Hand, und keine Qual rühret sie an.

Lord, make me to know mine end, and the measure of my days, what it is: that I may know how frail I am.
Behold, thou hast made my days as an handbreadth; and mine age is as nothing before thee.
Surely every man walks in a vain show: surely they are disquieted in vain: he heaps up riches, and knows not who shall gather them. And now, Lord, what wait I for? My hope is in thee.
The souls of the righteous are in the hand of God and there shall no torment touch them.

IV

Wie lieblich sind deine Wohnungen, Herr Zebaoth!
Meine Seele verlanget und sehnet sich nach den Vorhöfen des Herrn; mein Leib und Seele freuen sich in dem lebendigen Gott.
Wohl denen, die in deinem Hause wohnen, die loben dich immerdar

How lovely are thy tabernacles, O Lord of hosts!
My soul longs, yea, even faints for the courts of the Lord: my heart and my flesh cries out for the living God.
Blessed are they that dwell in thy house: they will always be praising thee.

V

Ihr habt nun Traurigkeit; aber ich will euch wieder sehen und euer Herz soll sich freuen, und eure Freude soll niemand von euch nehmen.
Sehet mich an: Ich habe eine kleine Zeit Mühe und Arbeit gehabt und habe großen Trost funden.
Ich will euch trösten, wie einen seine Mutter tröstet.

And ye now therefore have sorrow: but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you.
Behold with your eyes, how that I have but little labour, and have gotten unto me much rest.
As one whom his mother comforts, so will I comfort you.

VI

Denn wir haben hie keine bleibende Statt, sondern die zukünftige suchen wir.
Siehe, ich sage euch Geheimnis: Wir werden nicht alle entschlafen, wir werden aber all verwandelt werden; und dasselbige plötzlich, in einem Augenblick, zu der Zeit der letzen Posaune. Denn es wird die Posaune schallen, und die Toten werden auferstehen unverweslich, und wir werden verwandelt werden. Dann wird erfüllet werden das Wort, das geschrieben steht: Der Tod ist verschlungen in den Sieg. Tod, wo ist dein Stachel? Hölle, wo ist dein Sieg?
Herr, du bist würdig, zu nehmen Preis und Ehre und Kraft, denn du hast alle Dinge geschaffen, und durch deinen Willen haben sie das Wesen und sind geschaffen.

For here have we no continuing city, but we seek one to come.
Behold, I show you a mystery: we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. Then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?
Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.

VII

Selig sind die Toten, die in dem Herren sterben, von nun an. Ja der Geist spricht, daß sie ruhen von ihrer Arbeit; denn ihre Werke folgen ihnen nach.

Blessed are the dead, which die in the Lord, from henceforth. Yea, says the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them.


It is a special joy to welcome back to Pittsburg today's soloists, both of whom have shared their artistry with us in years past during their tenure as members of the voice facuity at Pittsburg State University.

Loraine Sims, soprano

Loraine Sims, soprano

Loraine Sims has achieved critical acclaim for her "vibrant, bell like soprano" as well as her "warm intimacy, engaging passion and casual artistry." She is an active recitalist whose voice has been described as "remarkably versatile, ranging from delicate lyricism to dramatic power," and her repertoire includes a broad range of songs and arias from the Baroque through Contemporary periods as well as a variety of selections from the American Musical Theater tradition. Recent performances include an appearance at the 2004 National NATS Convention in New Orleans singing Schubert's Der Hirt auf dem Felsen and a solo recital appearance on the "Music at St. John's" Concert Series in Thibodaux, LA this spring. Other engagements this season have included recitals and/or masterclasses at the Royal Irish Academy of Music, the Conservatory of Music and Drama at the Dublin Institute of Technology, Minnesota State University, Gustavus Adolphus College (Minnesota), and Drury University (Missouri), and the University of Southern Mississippi.

Honors for Ms. Sims include the national finals in the National Opera Association Vocal Competition and the international semifinals in the prestigious Concert Artist Guild Competition. Her early vocal training is from Southeastern Oklahoma State University and Southwest Texas State University, and she holds the Doctor of Musical Arts degree in Vocal Performance from Louisiana State University.

Dr. Sims continues a successful teaching career as an Assistant Professor of Voice at Louisiana State University. Her prior faculty positions were at Pittsburg State University in Pittsburg, Kansas; Southeastern Louisiana University in Hammond, Louisiana; and Southeastern Oklahoma State University in Durant, Oklahoma. She is a member of the Music Teachers National Association (MTNA), the National Association of Teachers of Singing (NATS), and the current Louisiana Governor of NATS.

Paul Huybrechts, baritone

Paul Huybrechts, baritone

Paul Huybrechts, adjunct assistant professor of vocal arts in the Thornton School of Music at the University of Southern California, is equally at home on the concert, operatic, and theatrical stages. He has performed as a recitalist and orchestral soloist throughout the United States and Europe and in leading roles with companies including Arizona Opera, Opera Southwest, and Baton Rouge Opera. Dr. Huybrechts earned his MM degree in vocal arts at USC, studying under Thomas Cleveland and Charles Roe. He earned his DMA degree at Louisiana State University, studying under Robert Grayson and Martina Arroyo. While working on his doctorate, he compiled an extensive catalogue of twentieth century Flemish art songs.

Before accepting his appointment at USC, he was assistant professor and director of opera theater at Auburn University followed by several years as associate professor and chair of the voice department and director of opera theater at Pittsburg State University in Pittsburg, Kansas. During his years in Kansas, he was active as a soloist with the Early Music Consort of Kansas City.

Along with teaching and performing, he was program director and on-air host at KRPS classical public radio as well as on-air host on K-Mozart in Los Angeles. Dr. Huybrechts is also a frequent pre-concert lecturer for orchestras and concert series in the Los Angeles area.

Related Links

Johannes Brahms (1833-1897)

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