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Johannes Brahms (1833-1897). German composer of the Romantic Era, also know as a pianist Born in Hamburg, but lived and worked most of his life in Vienna.

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Presentation on theme: "Johannes Brahms (1833-1897). German composer of the Romantic Era, also know as a pianist Born in Hamburg, but lived and worked most of his life in Vienna."— Presentation transcript:

1 Johannes Brahms (1833-1897)

2 German composer of the Romantic Era, also know as a pianist Born in Hamburg, but lived and worked most of his life in Vienna Composed music for piano, chamber ensembles, symphony orchestra, solo voice, and for choirs Can be considered a traditionalist composer (or “academic” composer) Took these traditional compositional techniques and put them into works that expanded the orchestral colors, harmonies, and melodies Preferred to write “pure” music (music that existed for its own sake) Had close ties with many famous composers of his time, including Robert Schumann, Johann Strauss Jr., and Franz Liszt Also performed with famous performers like pianist Clara Schumann, and the violinist Joseph Joachim In religious terms, he is considered to be a “free-thinker,” even a non-believer, but certainly an agnostic

3 Ein Deutsches Requiem (A German Requiem) Composed between 1865 and 1868 His mother’s death in 1865 provided the impetus (or inspiration) for composing this work Sections had been composed earlier Second movement was originally conceived of as a sonata for two pianos Within two months of his mother’s death he had completed the 1 st, 2 nd, and 4 th movements A performance of movements 1-3 occurred in December of 1867 On Good Friday of 1868 the entire 6-movement work as it existed at that time was performed Soon after this performance he wrote the final movement (#5), which is a tribute to his mother The final, seven-movement version of A German Requiem was premiered in Leipzig on 18 February 1869 This is the longest work that Brahms ever wrote

4 Compositional forces soprano and baritone soloists and chorus woodwinds: piccolo, 2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons and contrabassoon brass: 4 horns, 2 trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba percussion: timpani strings and harp (one part, preferably doubled) organ (ad libitum - to be used as desired, but not essential)

5 Text Traditional requiem text is the Latin Mass for the Dead. This traditional text is very long, divided into numerous sections Most Requiem settings up to this time were meant for LITURGICAL purposes Brahms selected his own texts from Luther’s translation of the bible He owned two copies of the Lutheran Bible, one from 1833 and the other from 1545 None of the original Latin text is included These texts are drawn from Matthew, Peter, James, John, Hebrews, Wisdom, Corinthians, Revelation, Sirach, and the Psalms Obviously the text is in German

6 The nature, or purpose of A German Requiem First line of the traditional Latin Requiem text: Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine (Rest eternal grant them, O Lord) Note how this text is focused on the DEAD (those that have passed on) Brahms chose texts that were focused on the LIVING (those that remain on earth) The overall feel is one of comfort for the living, rather than fear of eternal damnation Brahms even commented that he would have actually preferred to call it a “Human Requiem” Since Brahms was essential a “free-thinker,” note that he chose texts that never mention CHRIST. (Eliminates Christian dogma, that Christ died for our sins and rose again) He aims to capture a UNIVERSAL human experience, rather than a narrow doctrinal one, and addresses the living, rather than the dead All this being said, remember that this is an intensely personal composition

7 Structure A seven-movement work, with the middle movement serving as a centerpiece for the entire work. This movement (#4) talks about the “lovely dwellings” of the Lord, is by far the most comforting Movements 1 and 7 are for choir only. Both begin with “Selig sind” (Blessed are they), and are unified thematically as well, especially considering the end of both movements Movements 2 and 6 are both very dramatic in nature, #2 talking about how life is short and fragile (for all flesh is as grass) and #6 talking about how we shall all be raised in the end, that death will not conquer life Movements 3 and 5 are both begun with a solo voice. In #3, the baritone intones a prayer that is echoed by the choir, in #5 the soprano (one who has died) comforts those who remain, the choir echoes her sentiment but with different words Many themes (and as a result all the movements) are unified through the use of a three-note “motive” involving a skip of a third followed by a step in the same direction

8 Movement #1 Most unique aspect of this movement is the orchestration. Brahms does not use the piccolo, clarinets, half the horns, trumpets, timpani, and either of the 1 st or 2 nd violins in this movement. (Violas and cellos are divided into 2 parts each) Gives a warm, rich sound to the texture. First choral entrances are a cappella (sung without instrumental accompaniment). Why? Note the melodic cell on “Selig sind” that unifies the whole composition. Listen for the harp at “Die mit Tränen säen” (joyous) Note the fugal entrances at “werden mit Freuden” Note the sigh motive on the word “weinen” (weep) Note the return of the opening material towards the end of the movement (Selig sind) Listen for the harps rising higher and higher at the end of the movement (souls rising into heaven?)

9 Movement #2 This is the only movement where Brahms uses all of the instruments in the orchestra. Note the very low notes to begin the movement, immediately followed by very high notes in the strings. (This is the same melodic cell used in movement #1, but reversed in direction) Listen for the timpani (this is a death march of sorts) Note the low range of the fist choral entrances (alto, tenor and bass in octaves - all singing the same notes) After a brief interlude by the orchestra, this entrance is repeated, but now with sopranos added and much higher and louder. Note the change in mood at the text “So seid nun geduldig” (So be patient) Listen for the harps at the text that talks about the early and latter rain - sounds like raindrops?

10 Movement #2 (continued) After this section, the ominous death march reappears, the opening section is repeated. Note how triumphantly Brahms sets the text “Aber des Herrn Wort” (But the word of the Lord endureth forever) The largest “But” in choral music? This leads to a triumphant passage on the text “Die Erlöseten des Herrn” (The ransomed of the Lord shall return” Note how joyous the music is on the text “Freude und Wonne” (Joy and gladness) as opposed to the way he sets the words “und Schmerz und Seufzen” (pain and sighing) Also note how the text “wird weg” (go away) is set, as though the choir is throwing the notes away. Sections are repeated in modified format (Die Erlöseten des Herrn, etc). This is followed by a gentle coda (concluding section) on the text “Ewige Freude” (everlasting joy shall be on their heads) - Brahms ends the movement focusing on joy, rather than death.

11 Movement #3 A prayer presented by the baritone soloist His melodic lines are repeated by the choir in homophony (all parts singing the same words in the same rhythm) Listen for how Brahms switches the texture of the accompaniment (strings alone, then woodwinds alone, etc. Note how the music is foreboding, serious, how there are spaces in the melodic line (as though the singers are halting, fearful) This is NOT a prayer of hope or consolation Section one ends with the first two lines of text repeated, interrupted by the orchestra at loud dynamic, in throbbing triplets Brahms then switches moods at “Ach, wie gar nichts sind alle Menschen” (Ah, how insignificant all mortals are) Chorus repeats the melody, words of the soloist (but only the first line of this section of text)

12 Movement #3 (continued) At “Nun, Herr, wes soll ich mich trösten?” (Now, Lord, in whom shall I find consolation?) the soloist followed by the choir ask this question 17 times. Note the use of the fugal structure here (text going at different times) sounds like a crowd all calling out the question individually, but at the end of the section, they all come together to ask the question as one. Note how the orchestra dies away, music sounds unfinished - there is a moment of silence - no one is answering the question? The choir in low range gradually growing higher comes to the realization that “Ich hoffe auf dich.” (I trust in you) An intense fugue follows on “Der Gerechten Seelen sind in Gottes Hand” (The souls of the righteous are in God’s hands) It’s hard to hear, but the motivic cell is present in three locations in the fugue melody Listen for the pedal point in the low brass, bassoons, low strings and timpani - they play the same pitch for 36 measures - Brahms is depicting the sure faith in God - unshakable, strong, firm, steady, etc.

13 Movement #4 Complete change in atmosphere from the 3 rd movement, aura of quiet reflection, gentleness, sublime tranquility Flat out pretty - nothing pompous or overblown about this movement Listen for the motive cell to start in the orchestra - but reversed in direction - then in the soprano line (actually the soprano line is an exact inversion of the first flute line - Brahms is always thinking… Notice how the orchestration is much more sparse - almost a chamber orchestra sound Notice the change in mood at “Meine Seele” (My soul), and how Brahms sets the words “verlanget und sehnet” (yearns and longs) Also note how Brahms sets the words “Herr Zebaoth” (Lord of hosts) and “lebendigen Gott” (Living God) - always the high point of the phrase And Brahms can’t help himself - he sets the final phrase of text “die loben dich immerdar” (those who praise you forevermore) as a DOUBLE fugue (very academic) Each phrase employs the use of the motivic cell in some way Ends with a quiet coda, using the words from the beginning

14 Movement #5 The final movement composed by Brahms Calm, reflective movement - nothing dramatic Words of comfort sung by the soprano, the choir quietly echoes her sentiment throughout, but unlike movement #3, they do not sing the same words as the soloist This takes the very personal words of the soprano and makes them more universal - we ALL want to comfort as a mother comforts her child Also interesting the choir actually interrupts the soloist - her words are sung OVER the choir - this is the only time where Brahms does this in the Requiem

15 Movement #6 Once again for baritone and chorus, like the 3 rd movement - also similar in nature to the uncertainty and somber feel of that earlier movement - but the choir begins rather than the soloist Note the weird harmonic progressions - Brahms is all over the place - makes the music quite unsettled (we have no permanent place) Baritone soloist interrupts (Behold, I tell you a mystery), choir repeats his words Note how the music starts to become more dramatic and insistent when the soloists sings “und dasselbige plötzlich, in einem Augenblick,” (and transformed suddenly, in an instant,) Note the change in the music when the choir sings “zu der Zeit der letzten Posaune.” (at the sound of the last trumpet), the sound is suddenly much larger, forceful (full brass enter) Text is now even more dramatic “Denn es wird die Posaune schallen” (for the trumpet will sound and the dead will rise up) - full orchestra and choir in homophony - very powerful - this is the first time in the Requiem where Brahms actually references the dead.

16 Movement #6 (continued) Baritone interrupts, singing “Dann wird erfüllet werden das Wort, das geschrieben steht:” (Then will be fulfilled the word that is written:) he is basically serving the role of a preacher at this point The choir then takes over again (using the same melodic material as earlier) on “Der Tod ist verschlungen in den Sieg.” (Death is swallowed up in victory.) Note how demanding the choir is on the text “Tod, wo ist dein Stachel? Hölle, wo ist dein Sieg?” (Death, where is your sting? Hell, where is your victory?) This section concludes with three dramatic statements by the choir “Wo? Wo? Wo?” (Where? Where? Where?) Note how there is complete silence after each statement - hell cannot answer - it knows that the Lord has triumphed At the change in text that follows, Brahms once again returns to a fugue, this time broad and majestic “Herr, du bist würdig zu nehmen Preis und Ehre und Kraft;” (Lord, you are worthy to receive praise and honor and might;)

17 Movement #6 (continued) Note how Brahms eventually sets apart the words “zu nehmen Preis und Ehre” by bringing the choir into homophonic texture, each time these words are finally finished with a huge chord with full orchestra on the word “kraft” (power) Note the change in atmosphere at “denn du hast alle Dinge erschaffen” (for you have created all things) sound is quieter, more reverential. This happens twice, but each time Brahms builds up the sound again. Movement concludes with the first line of the text from Revelation, notice there is no orchestral passage to conclude - choir finishes the movement WITH the orchestra.

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