"A German Requiem, To Words of the Holy Scriptures," is a large-scale choral work composed between 1865 and 1868 by German composer Johannes Brahms. It comprises seven movements, which together last 65 to 80 minutes, making it Brahms's longest composition. The Requiem's darker ruminations are alleviated by this fourth movement, taken from Psalm 84.
Brahms composed this major choral work in three major periods of his life. An earlier version of the second movement was first composed in 1854, not long after his friend Robert Schumann's attempted suicide, and was later finished and used in his first piano concerto. The majority of the Requiem was written after his mother's death in 1865, a loss that caused him much grief. The fifth movement was later added after the official premiere in 1868.
The term "Requiem" is used to describe any sacred composition that sets to music religious texts which would be appropriate at a funeral. Brahms' work was so called because the text was taken from Luther's German translation of the Bible rather than the Latin texts normally used for such sacred compositions. (Brahms used a German Bible that he was given as a child to choose the passages for the work). Cast in seven divisions, it focused on the sorrow of those who mourn, rather than speculating on the fate of the dead. The Requiem proved a triumphant success following its first performance in 1869 and was soon performed in concert by massed choirs and mighty orchestras. It marked a turning point in Brahms' career placing him among Europe's leading composers.
The theme of transition from anxiety to comfort runs throughout the Requiem. However, although God is the source of the comfort, a sympathetic humanism persists through the work. In fact, Brahms purposefully omitted Christian dogma.