Brahms’ Ein deutsches Requiem(A German Requiem) is a work of contradictory conciliations. It’s both profoundly sad yet cautiously joyous, outwardly personal, a work about death for those still living. Drawn from the Lutheran translation of the Bible, an agnostic Brahms eschewed overt religious themes in carefully select passages concerning grief, death, acceptance, and hope; a broad yet searingly insightful take on life and existence.

Asher Fisch with WASO German Requiem

Composed in 1866 and first performed in 1867, Brahms had recently experienced a profound loss. His mother had died in 1865, and according to reports, Brahms arrived back in Hamburg too late to say goodbye. Yet initial sketches for the Requiem’s second movement Denn alles Fleisch, est wie ist Gras(For all flesh is as grass) have been dated back to 1856, the same year that Brahms’ friend and mentor Robert Schumann died. Yet in spite of these tragedies, Brahms frames his Requiem as an optimistically uplifting approach to life and death, with the last movement...