Jun 3, 2008

Denn Wir Haben Hier Keine Bleibende Stadt

Then we have here (on Earth) no resting place. Or, secularly paraphrased, there's no rest for the weary.

I've been on a Brahms Requiem kick lately. For some reason, it just fits my mood - and not just because I definitely had no resting place recently. (Quick aside for those who aren't classical music geeks... a requiem is, essentially, music for a funeral. Not that I've been feeling funereal, particularly, but it's comforting music.) On top of that, it relies heavily on the chorus rather than predominantly focusing on soloists. It's also got some great really loud bits that I get a kick out of blasting from my open-windowed car - sort of a classical rebellion, I suppose. ("Heh, don't you give me all that bass, you teenage whippersnapper, or I'll Brahms you!")

I sang the Brahms Requiem (or, more accurately, "Ein Deutsches Requiem" by Johannes Brahms), oh, probably about 10-ish years ago as part of the Springfield Symphony Chorus. I'd never been much of a Brahms fan - a bit thickly layered for me - and this piece was no exception. Until the second run through at the final dress rehearsal. All of a sudden, the piece fell together for me and is, now, probably my all time favorite choral work. 10 years later, I can still sing a goodly portion of the alto part from memory.

So, how, you ask, can a requiem, for God's sake, be comforting? Well, it's kind of funny - but this requiem is far more about addressing the needs of the living than ushering the dead into the next realm. The music is sweepingly complicated and beautiful, simultaneously warm and forceful, filled with wistful longing and gentle reassurance. The text speaks of the beauty of that next realm (Wie lieblich sind deine Wohnungen, Herr Zebaot - how lovely is thy dwelling place, Oh God.), it assures us that we will meet again with those who have gone before (Ich will euch wiedersehen - I will see you again).

Even as it admonishes us to remember that our lives are limited in duration (Herr, lehre doch mich das ein Ende mit mir haben muss, und mein Leben ein Ziel hat, und ich davon muss - Lord, teach me that there will be an end to me, that my life will draw to a close, and I must leave here), it reminds us that God does not forget God's own (Die Erloeseten des Herrn werden wieder kommen und gehn Zion - the beloved of the Lord will come again unto Heaven).

And, you know, there's something really comforting about that. Just my 2 cents, of course.

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4 Comments:

Blogger LauraJ said...

hmmm...very interesting....i didn't know what requiem was but thought it was a nice word when i heard it. nice to hear from you!

1:23 PM  
Blogger smileymamaT said...

Wow. Not only an accomplished singer but you most definitely have a way of creating visual art with your descriptive phrases.... the sort of wording which can sweep a person away in imagery. And of course you made me laugh too.
I'll Brahms you! ha!
on a side note, my father is a sort of local celebrity in the public radio/classic sector of his state... I can't name his title or I'd identify him - but suffice it to say I was immersed in classical music as a toddler. I still love certain prices and long for concerts, which are rare around here.

9:20 PM  
Blogger peppypilotgirl said...

Thanks, ladies! I think it's that music major background creeping through.

When I was little, T, my parents used to play the Rudolf Serkin recording of the Beethoven piano concertos on the record player (dating myself, I know!) at night. We used to lay in bed and hear the music drift up through the open windows. I still can't listen to those if I'm homesick.

11:31 PM  
Blogger JerseyTjej said...

I love what is traditionally thought of as funereal music, and I can remember when I first saw JFK's funeral on a video, saying that I wanted Ave Maria played at my funeral because it is so beautiful. Kathleen Battle has the honor of singing my favorite version, thus far.

1:53 PM  

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