The Philharmonia Choir will join forces with the Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra and Bernhard Gueller to present Johannes Brahms’ lyrical Ein deutsches Requiem (A German Requiem), Op. 45. The requiem was composed between 1865 and 1868 and may have been inspired by Brahms’ grief over his mother’s death in 1865 and Robert Schumann’s death in 1856. It is sacred but non-liturgical, and Brahms composed the libretto based on text from the German Luther Bible, in contrast to the traditional Roman Catholic Requiem Mass, which uses a standardized text in Latin.
Although the Requiem Mass in the Roman Catholic liturgy begins with prayers for the dead (“Grant them eternal rest, O Lord”), Brahms’ requiem focuses on the living, beginning with the text “Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted” from the Beatitudes. This theme — transition from anxiety to comfort — recurs throughout the work. The requiem is centred around the lovely “Wie lieblich sind deine Wohnungen” (How lovely are thy dwellings), a favourite piece of the Philharmonia Choir.