Brahms: A German Requiem
Saturday 18th November, 7.30pm, Brecon Cathedral
Banish all thoughts of miserable November nights with this epic event that programmes two of the greatest choral works of the C19th century. The Choral Society, Brecknock Sinfonia, and the Friends of Brecon Cathedral Choir will come together at Brecon Cathedral to perform this concert of contrast; Brahms’ poignant and personal A German Requiem (Ein Deutches Requiem since it will be sung in German) alongside the extrovert and celebratory style of Dvorak’s Te Deum. Another contrast is that unlike the Brahms, the Dvorak is seldom performed and our conductor Stephen Marshall is very adept at opening the choir’s eyes and ears to works they’ve neither seen nor heard before.
Icing on the cake is the return of two of the Choral Society’s very first choral scholars to perform with us as soloists. Lowri Probert and Tomos Owen Jones, both locals, are making names for themselves on the professional scene and for them to return to such a special venue and performance is a genuine delight.
What about the music?
Brahms’ Requiem is a highly individual and much loved work believed to be a memorial to the tragic early death of the composer’s friend and mentor, Robert Schumann. The passing of Brahms’ mother in 1865 must also have contributed much to the work’s creation during 1866 and 1867.
It is surprisingly humanist in tone, having nothing really in common with traditional Christian rites and with no actual prayers for the deceased. Instead Brahms chooses his own biblical texts which are deliberately anti-dogmatic. He apparently refused to be pigeonholed about his faith and once explained that his Requiem was for humanity as a whole. The focus therefore is not on Christian redemption but on our common hopes and fears, together with a longing for consolation.
Brahms was a great champion of Dvorak, a much younger Czech composer who, from humble origins (his father was an innkeeper), rose to be a national hero. Dvorak also gained an international following, the English in particular taking him to their hearts.
In autumn 1892 Dvorak became director of the national conservatory in New York, a move that was to have great impact on his writing as he immersed himself in America’s native musical traditions. For his arrival he was commissioned to write a festive work to mark the 400th anniversary of the discovery of America by Christopher Columbus.
A devout Catholic all his life, Dvorak chose to set the great hymn of thanksgiving that is the Te Deum. The resulting work is one of his finest and most original and has a distinct earthiness about it not usually associated with sacred music. This undoubtedly has much to do with Dvorak’s love of nature. As a youth he is reputed to have said “I pray best over there by the window, looking at the greenery and the sky!” Listeners can pick up on the outdoor nature of the work in its folksong-inspired tunes and rhythms. By contrast, there are also some beautiful solo spots inspired by the world of Italian opera. A feast awaits!
To buy tickets…
Tickets are also available from choir members and on the door.
Tickets cost £15 (students and under 18s free).
(A booking fee of 50p per ticket is applied to online purchases. CCS will not offer refunds except in the event of a cancelled performance, when a refund will be offered on production of the ticket/s purchased. Online ticket purchases will be refunded automatically minus the booking fee. No tickets will be released for delivery or collection until payment has been received.)