Chorale performs joint concerts in Lexington and Danville

WILMORE, KY—The choirs from Centre College, Berea College, Asbury University, and Transylvania University will join with full orchestra to present two performances of Johannes Brahms Ein Deutches Requiem (A German Requiem). The first performance is April 9 at 8 p.m. in Haggin Auditorium on the Transylvania campus. The second concert is April 10 at 8 p.m in Newlin Hall in the Norton Center for the Arts at Centre. There will be a free, short lecture at 7 p.m. before each performance; the lecture on April 10 will be in the Vahlkamp Theater in Crounse Hall on Centre’s campus. Tickets for both performances may be purchased from the Norton Center Box Office (1-877-448-7469).

The chorale will perform Brahms' works in Lexington and Danville, April 9-10.
The chorale will perform Brahms' works in Lexington and Danville, April 9-10.

Completed in 1868, A German Requiem is Brahms’ longest work for orchestra and what first brought the composer to wide recognition. A German Requiem is both within and outside the long tradition of requiems by composers such as Mozart, Verdi, and Berlioz. Not only did Brahms not use the standard Latin texts from the Mass for the Dead, but he also wrote a requiem for all people and especially for those who mourn a loved one’s death. In one letter he referred to it as “a human requiem.”

Though not traditionally religious, Brahms knew the Hebrew and Christian scriptures through Martin Luther’s German translation of the Bible; his own Bible is preserved in Vienna and is full of personal annotations in pencil. In making his own selection of texts, Brahms clearly shows a stronger interest in offering consolation and hope to the living than in “escorting the dead through the medieval horrors of Wrath and Judgment,” to quote the great American choral director, Robert Shaw. 

Long a scholar of earlier music including that of Bach and Handel, Brahms’ work is a combination of superb craft – soaring melodic lines, vigorous rhythms, and three extensive fugues (a procedure somewhat like a round) – and his penetrating understanding of the human spirit. To quote Robert Shaw from a letter to his choir as he prepared them for a performance of this work:  “I’ll guaran-double-tee you that each hour you spend at home on any page of the Requiem will sharpen your intelligence, challenge your theology, and exalt your humanity.”   True for singers, the work is also welcoming and rewarding to all listeners.

The performances will feature two soloists, Prof. Stephen Bolster, baritone, of Berea College, and a recent graduate of Berea, soprano Jessica French of Lexington. Robert Porco, director of the Cleveland Orchestra Chorus and the choirs of the Cincinnati May Festival, will conduct the performances.

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