Monday, May 01, 2006

notes on Brahms by Kristin

Here are program notes on Brahms by Orchestra TA, Kristin Kane.
In July 1880 Brahms wrote to his friend Elisabet von Herzogenberg:

"I am quite willing to write motets are anything else for chorus (I am heartily sick of anything else!); but won't you try to find me some words? One can't have them made to order unless one begins before good reading has spoilt one. They are not heathenish enough for me in the Bible. I have bought the Koran but can find nothing there either."

Later that year he settled on an appropriately 'heathenish' text by Schiller – a meditation on the transience of life, which even the beautiful can not escape. As is often the case in Brahms' meditations on death, a glimmer of hope is offered – in the case of Nänie it is not in divine comfort (as in the German Requiem), but in the glory of memory, that consolation is found.

Brahms dedicated his Nänie (Threnody) to Henriette Feuerbach, the mother of the late painter Anselm Feuerbach, whose work Brahms had much admired. But the choice of text was surely suggested to him by the setting of Schiller's poem by Hermann Goetz, which had been premiered in Vienna earlier that year. Scholars have since noted a number of similarities between Brahms' setting and Goetz's, suggesting that the musical allusions Brahms' Nänie may have been conceived in homage to the recently deceased composer. Malcolm MacDonald has suggested that Brahms' Threnody might thus be heard as a 'double-memorial' for his two esteemed colleagues.

Kristin Kane

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