Thursday, April 9, 2015

Video of the week: Brahms' Requiem

Have you noticed that we have been focusing on Johannes Brahms lately? We call him one of the three big B's in classical music. But do my students know how important he is to them?! 

I've told more than a few my cello history, and how, a few years after letting the cello go upon high school graduation, I attended a concert. Sitting in the back half of WWU's PAC Concert Hall, I heard the opening notes of Brahms' Requiem played by Whatcom Symphony Orchestra's bass and cello sections. I had played in this orchestra for about three and a half of my four years in high school. Learned a lot there from my more experienced stand partners and principal cellists!

But now I was in the audience on that hot June afternoon... or was it the evening concert? I forget. But I can't forget those opening low notes... Oh! An unexpected wave of emotion in those first measures! First the low chords with the bass, then the singing theme before the rest of the orchestra joins! Listening to a recording isn't quite the same as live music, but you can hear, here, what it was that tugged at my heart. Why was I in the audience and not playing the cello in that orchestra?! I don't know if it was that instant, or maybe into the 2nd movement or when, but it wasn't too long - I knew I had to play again.

Sooo... students, who knows, if it wasn't for Brahms, would I be playing my cello? Maybe, but I think it's okay to say that Brahms played a part in giving Salmon Arm a cello teacher. :-) I didn't know it at the time, but that concert may have also been the first time I saw my husband... or at least heard him. He was singing in the choir. But of course I didn't notice that handsome tenor... there were cellos! :-)

Students:  This video is the full work of "A German Requiem", over an hour long, and I encourage you to watch or at least listen to the whole thing (there are ads, but they can be skipped).  But if you can't do that, at least listen to the first movement and the beginning of the second (16 minutes). And you might want to turn up your speakers to make sure not to miss those first pianissimo notes!

Oh, and can you name the other two big B's?


  1. I was IN that concert! It was my FAVORITE piece I've ever performed! So very moving, especially as it resonated with my faith. I think I like it better than The Messiah. Was it performed in English probably? I took German, but I doubt I would have understood the choir....unless I took the time to read the English translation.
    I find it interesting that, being sisters, we were never in that orchestra at the same time...were we? I gave up the violin at 19 when I entered WWU. It's been 30 years! So you must have gone back to the cello as I was putting down the violin. Do I miss it? Only recently...and honestly, I still prefer the sound of the cello (but you got dibs on that -- and my small hands are better suited for the smaller instrument).

    Also -- I know we are different, but you asked your young students to at least listen to the first movement. Really? I find that so sleepy...I would say, to get young ones hooked...skip to something exciting ("grand and epic") like the 2nd and 6th movements!

    I'm glad I happened upon your blog today...I hope to get some time to listen to this when I have more time.

  2. Yes you were! And our brother as well? I didn't remember that you weren't still in the orchestra when I joined the following year... David was - I remember him on the ferry when we played in... Friday Harbor?

    Yes, it was in English.

    Really, this year, my video of the week is not for my "young" students. But the reason is simply one of the length of the full video, and that some have limited internet access. I may well assign more movements in future videos, if I find some of the individual movements. But I DID say to listen to at least the beginning of the second - hoping they will be hooked and listen to more! :-)


  3. Or was the ferry even a year after that. The more I think of it, I seem to see you there, too.... Do you remember?

    1. No memory of a ferry trip or any trip with that orchestra. We'll have to ask our brother...I didn't remember him being in that orchestra, but maybe he was asked to join in for that piece? It was a long time ago...but your long-term memory has always been more precise than mine.