Brahms polished his scores scrupulously and laboriously, and was his own sternest critic. He completed Ein deutsches Requiem, written in stages over more than a decade, in 1868. This is not a functional composition. The meticulous, extremely personal choice of biblical texts in Martin Luther’s German translation and the highly expressive music, which follows the words, make the German Requiem a masterwork of universal reach (‘I could happily omit the “German” and simply say “Human”’, wrote the composer himself). Ever since the first performance of the final, seven-movement version at the Leipzig Gewandhaus in 1869, Brahms’s Requiem has been one of the most moving compositional reflections on life and death.
Serving here as a prelude to Brahms’s masterwork is the Adagio from Anton Bruckner’s String Quintet in F major, arranged for string orchestra by Stanisław Skrowaczewski. That charismatic connoisseur and admirer of Bruckner’s work became renowned for interpretations of the Austrian composer’s music that revealed its existential dimension. The orchestration of the Quintet in F major, from 1998, allows us to delight in the songfulness of the phrasing and the august, elegiac melodic beauty of what is essentially a thoroughly symphonic work.