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Brahms's German Requiem

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BRAHMS'S GERMAN REQUIEM

Forget Verdian bombast. For that matter, forget the familiar Latin words of the traditional requiem, the Roman Catholic mass for the dead. Instead of following the usual liturgical model, Johannes Brahms chose to write his requiem in the vernacular--and to give it a decidedly humanistic tack. There's no Dies Irae, threatening endless pain for sinners, no reference to the day of judgment or to "torment eternal." Instead there's comfort and hope. Brahms's German Requiem, so titled simply because of the language in which it was written, uses texts from Luther's translation of the Bible, beginning quietly with a phrase from the beatitudes ("Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted") and ending with a resounding affirmation from the Revelation of Saint John the Divine ("Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord"). There are few greater portraits of heavenly bliss than the chorus "How lovely is thy dwelling place." This is some of Brahms's best and most evocative music, with gorgeous choruses in profusion and brilliant writing for the soprano and baritone soloists--a work that goes for the head as well as the heart--and the Ravinia Festival's performance promises to be the highlight of the season. The stunning young Welsh soprano Rebecca Evans, so dazzling in last year's Schumann extravaganza, Scenes From Faust, will share soloist duties with renowned baritone Thomas Hampson (see Ted Shen's Critic's Choice). Joining the Chicago Symphony Orchestra will be the Chicago Symphony Chorus, making its only appearance of the year; Ravinia's music director, Christoph Eschenbach, will conduct. Tickets are--inexplicably--still available for the pavilion as well as the lawn. Saturday, 8 PM, Ravinia Festival, Green Bay and Lake Cook Rds., Highland Park; 847-266-5100.

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