Editor’s note: Arachnophonia is a regular feature on our blog where members of the UR community can share their thoughts about items in the Parsons Music Library‘s collection. All links included in these posts will take you to either the library catalog record for the item in question or to additional relevant information from around the web.
Today’s installment of Arachnophonia is by Music Library student worker, Emma R. (class of 2021) and features Johannes Brahms’ “Ein deutsches Requiem” which was composed between 1857 and 1868. Thanks, Emma!
For some strange reason, ever since I was a child I was drawn to classical music. It wasn’t forced on me by my parents through piano lessons or anything similar – in fact, my dad used to, and occasionally still does bemoan my lack of interest in his “oldies” (considering mine are centuries older, I question the use of this term) and acoustic singer-songwriter favorites. A memorable (and embarrassing) moment when I was entering sixth grade illustrates this complete disconnect from reality and a lack of common sense – I asked the 20-something DJ at the 6th grade ice-cream social/dance party to “please play some Mozart so I could hear myself think.” Yes, this actually happened, and no, it did not go over very well (clearly). I’ve grown somewhat over the years; my Spotify account tells me that in 2017, Sia’s “Chandelier” edged out the “Dies Irae” from Mozart’s Requiem, coming in at 46 and 47 most commonly played, respectively, but there’s still something about a good “Kyrie” or a sumptuous aria or an intriguing overture that synthesizers just can’t match.
In recent months, I’ve been listening to the Brahms Requiem more than any other album or song (I fully expect to find each movement on Spotify’s analysis of my 2018 habits). I walk across campus humming the key motives and it plays on my speakers as I do my hair or study for an exam. I’m sad to say I hadn’t discovered this piece before this year. The reason for this sudden infatuation? This piece will be the first I will perform as a member of the Richmond Symphony Chorus, with performances in the middle of November. From the night of the first rehearsal – a complete read through of the piece – cover to cover – in August, I was hooked.
Unlike the typical Latin text of the classical requiem, Brahms wrote entirely in German, and as such was free to abandon the standard movements and sections dictated by the traditional text. While I might bemoan the loss of a Brahmsian rendition of the “Dies Irae,” this gave him the ability to craft a framework of his own. My personal favorite moment of the Brahms is the second, though after a particularly intense rehearsal on the sixth I was about ready to shift my allegiances. I’m still loyal to the second though, for the reason of a specific 20 second section occurring at 9:34 – 9:54 of the second track of this recording. This moment, for me, captures the glorious beauty of wonderful music that truly stands the test of time, and let’s be honest, that soprano part is just so fun to sing!