This concert from Vienna with Brahms’ Deutsches Requiem – performed on the 100th anniversary of the composer’s death – is among the most memorable performances by the Berliner Philharmoniker under the baton of Claudio Abbado. The audience in the Golden Hall of the Musikverein apparently thought the same, and there was a long appreciative pause before the applause broke out.
The deep impression this performance made may be the result of a certain harmony between the intentions of the composer and the performance by the musicians. Brahms wanted to create a requiem “for the people” – that is, one which provides comfort rather than adheres to religious ceremony, thus a requiem in German rather than in liturgically correct, if incomprehensible Latin. A similar concern characterizes this interpretation, which with all its perfection and tonal beauty, radiates a feeling of humanity and empathy.
For Claudio Abbado, this performance of the Brahms Requiem in this venue may also have had a biographical element. During his time as a student in Vienna, he attempted to sit in on the rehearsals in the Musikverein. As this was not permitted, he became a member of the choir and had the opportunity to experience the great conductors at close hand including – as a choir member for the Deutsches Requiem – Herbert von Karajan.