A German Requiem

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Composer Johannes Brahms wrote A German Requiem, To Words of the Holy Scriptures (German title: Ein deutsches Requiem, nach Worten der heiligen Schrift, Op. 45) after the death of his mother in 1865. It is a large-scale work for chorus, soprano and baritone soloists, and large orchestra. The text was assembled by the composer from various passages in the Luther Bible, but does not follow the typical liturgical setting of the Requiem Mass. Moreover, as the title implies, the text is in German (rather than Latin as would be usual for a Requiem), and more aligned with the Humanist philosophical beliefs prevalent in late 19th century German-speaking countries than with Christian doctrine.

It is cast in seven movements, and requires between 70 and 80 minutes to perform.

Movements and Text

I. Selig sind, die da Leid tragen

Blessed are they that mourn,
For they shall be comforted. (Matthew 5:4[1])

They that sow in tears
Shall reap in joy.
'He that goeth forth and weepeth,
Bearing precious seed,
Shall doubtless come again with rejoicing,
Bringing his sheaves with him. (Psalm 126:5-6)

II. Denn alles Fleisch es ist wie Gras

For all flesh is as grass,
And all the glory of man
As the flower of grass.
The grass withereth,
And the flower thereof falleth away. (I Peter 1:24)

Be patient therefore, brethren,
Unto the coming of the Lord.
Behold, the husbandman waiteth
For the precious fruit of the earth,
And hath long patience for it,
Until he receive the early and latter rain.
Be patient therefore. (James 5:7)

But the word of the Lord endureth for ever. (I Peter 1:25)

And the ransomed of the Lord shall return
And come to Zion with songs
And everlasting joy upon their heads:
They shall obtain joy and gladness,
And sorrow and sighing shall flee away. (Isaiah 35:10)

III. Herr, lehre doch mich

Lord, make me to know mine end,
And the measure of my days,
What it is, that I may know how frail I am.
Behold, thou hast made my days
As an handbreadth;
And mine age is as nothing before thee:
Verily every man at his best state
Is altogether vanity.
Surely every man walketh in a vain show:
Surely they are disquieted in vain:
He heapeth up riches, and knoweth not
Who shall gather them.
And now, Lord, what wait I for?
My hope is in thee. (Psalm 39:5-8)

The souls of the righteous are in the hand of God
And there shall no torment touch them. (Wisdom of Solomon 3:1)

IV. Wie lieblich sind deine Wohnungen

How amiable are thy tabernacles,
O Lord of hosts!
My soul longeth, yea, even fainteth
For the courts of the Lord:
My heart and my flesh crieth out
For the living God.
Blessed are they that dwell in thy house:
They will be still praising thee. (Psalm 84:2, 3, 5.)

V. Ihr habt nun Traurigkeit

And ye now therefore have sorrow:
But I will see you again,
And your heart shall rejoice,
And your joy no man taketh from you. (John 16:22)

Behold with your eyes,
How that I have but little labour,
And have gotten unto me much rest. (Sirach 51:27)

As one whom his mother comforteth
So will I comfort you. (Isaiah 66:13a)

VI. Denn wir haben hie keine bleibende Statt

For here we have no continuing city,
But we seek one to come. (Hebrews 13:14)

Behold, I show you a mystery;
We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment,
In the twinkling of an eye,
At the last trump:
For the trumpet shall sound,
And the dead shall be raised incorruptible,
And we shall be changed.
Then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written,
Death is swallowed up in victory.
O death, where is thy sting?
O grave, where is thy victory? (I Corinthians 15:51, 52, 54b, 55)

Thou art worthy, O Lord,
To receive glory and honour and power:
For thou hast created all things,
And for thy pleasure they are
And were created. (Revelations 4:11)

VII. Selig sind die Toten

Blessed are the dead
Which die in the Lord from henceforth:
Yea, saith the Spirit,
That they may rest from their labours;
And their works do follow them. (Revelations 14:13b)


  1. All translations quoted from the King James Version

See also