THE BRAHMS REQUIEM
Performed in the Cape Town City Hall on Tuesday 15th October 2013 under the direction of Conductor Alexander Fokkens
A PERSONAL REFLECTION
My first experience of the Brahms Requiem in the same venue some years ago was a disappointment. We had been invited to attend the performance and we were, indeed, looking forward to it.
However, the playing and singing on that occasion might have been word and note perfect, but the performance was both leaden and dismal. As a result of which my wife, Jean, and I agreed to give future airings of this work a miss.
It was with no little sense of unease that I heard Alexander Fokkens announce some while back that the The Symphony Choir would be tackling the work.
Last night, along with the members of the Symphony Choir and members of the Tygerberg City Choir, and accompanied by the UCT Symphony Orchestra, I had the privilege of singing in this awe-inspiring work.
I felt we were on “holy ground”.
I cannot vouch for the performance itself, as I was singing in it! But the difference was unbelievable. Happily, and obviouly from my viewpoint, the diffence lay in the fact that, apart from the singing of the right words and the right notes, from rehearsal one the spiritual significance of the work lay on Alexander”s heart.
His personal belief in the validity of the text as influencing his outlook on grief and death found expression in the Brahms composition. It was clear that Alexander undertood both the experience of grief and the experience of death to be universal, regardless of the individual”s faith persuasion or none. All suffer and grieve when a loved one dies.
Grief is a deeply moving expression, from the depths a person”s being, of love, that another matters. All love is “Blessed” – and, we don”t master grief, we grow in and through the mystery of it. And all are born to live, to live to die; many believing – to die to live! And to die is a “Blessing” at the end of a lived and loved life.
We do not master life, we grow through it towards the mystery of death.and towards the hopeful mystery of a “Blessed” beyond.
And so this profound work begins and ends with the word:”BLESSED”.
This great requiem holds one spellbound with a sense of awe, reverence, wonder. And when prepared and performed in this dimension of the spirit, I for one, cannot but be aware that Brahms has ushered both performers and hearers onto holy ground.
With the work”s opening almost silent heartbeat coming from eternity into the present moment, to the final harp arpeggio rising from the earthly to the heavenlies, Brahms penetrates the human heart saying: “This is about me; about you; about all! Grieving and dying are about love and belonging.In a world where grief and death are shrouded in gloom and fear, they can be seen anew as mysterious blessings, fulfilling blessings, meaningful personal blessings.”
With precisely that understanding, Alexander harnessed his singers and players to perform last night, moulding and holding all in a bond of love and unity. for which I am more than grateful. . and pray that many others would have experienced something of what I esperienced and have attempted to describe.