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Thread: Ein deutsches Requiem - rehearsal diary

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    Senior Member Lunasong's Avatar
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    Default Ein deutsches Requiem - rehearsal diary

    Our chorus started work on this piece this week to be presented in May 2013 with orchestra. We are working off a public domain score which has the organ accompaniment, and our Maestro and choral director have already gone through it and added and highlighted articulation and dynamic markings of which they want us to be particularly aware. AS part of our rehearsal packet, we also received translations, both line-by-line and block translations, a background of the piece, and and outline of its structure. I'll include these in future posts.

    I've reviewed with interest this thread A German Requiem and will be looking for recordings on YouTube to further familiarize myself with the work. I heard it performed on a college campus a couple years ago when my son played horn in the orchestra.

    We started rehearsal with the same straw-sipping exercise as previously. You sip air into your mouth as through a straw, and locate the cool spot it forms on the roof of your mouth. This then becomes a focal point for the placement of vowels in the mouth. As we were cycling through vowels (ah-eh-ee-oh-oo) we placed our hands in front of us and acted as if we were pushing down a basketball in water.

    We sight-read our way through the first two movements, initially count-singing and then pulse-singing eighth notes on a syllable (maybe neh, but I honestly don't remember!). This is to help us line up our parts for precision.


    Brahms, 1866, circa composition.
    "To be a musician is a curse. To NOT be one is even worse." Jack Daney

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    I first heard the work performed live on a college campus with my daughter playing cello. I enjoyed it then, but somehow I don't think I realized the true beauty of the work. I recently received Solti's Requiem as a present from my daughter. I've been listening to it almost non-stop over the past 3 days.

    I hope you enjoy performing it as much as I adore listening to it.

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    Senior Member Sonata's Avatar
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    Amazing piece of music! I look forward to reading about your progress
    Stabat Mater & Requiem Project:

    REQUIEMS
    Dvorak
    Faure Requiem
    Mozart
    Rossini
    Salieri
    Verdi

    STABAT MATERS
    Boccherini
    Dvorak
    Haydn
    Mayr
    Poulenc
    Rossini
    Steffani
    Vivaldi

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    Senior Member Lunasong's Avatar
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    Our chorus director was "exhausted" after hosting Stephen Schwartz on campus for two days, so our assistant director was in charge of this week's rehearsal. Her goal was to read through movements 3 and 4 using count-singing, and then go back and review movements 1 & 2.
    Movement 3 is a bit tricky because of multiple meter and tempo changes. We worked on each section separately, breaking down into parts and then layering each one back together. I noted that the soprano part is really high! After all this hard work, Movement 4 was a breeze.
    We did have time at the end of rehearsal to review the first two movements.

    We have not done anything with the German yet. The person sitting next to me can't wait to sing it in German; she says it will be so much easier for her (she's sung it before). I can wait.
    "To be a musician is a curse. To NOT be one is even worse." Jack Daney

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    Senior Member Stargazer's Avatar
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    I remember reading your rehearsal diary on Mahler's 2nd symphony. Why do you always perform the good stuff?!

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    Senior Member SiegendesLicht's Avatar
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    I think you have awesome managers or whoever it is that chooses the pieces you get to perform. First Mahler, then Wagner, then the German Requiem.. Your audience is truly a lucky one!
    ... yet for us will still remain the holy German art... (Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg)
    ***
    God gave all men all earth to love,
    But since our hearts are small,
    Ordained for each one spot should prove
    Beloved over all.
    R. Kipling

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    Senior Member Lunasong's Avatar
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    Don't forget our Rossini Stabat Mater earlier this season.

    I'm pretty sure the Orchestra's music director (our Maestro) selects the pieces. Excellent choices, I agree. I have enjoyed learning and performing each one.

    In our upcoming 2013-14 season we will be performing selections from Bernstein and Beethoven 9.
    "To be a musician is a curse. To NOT be one is even worse." Jack Daney

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    I have the Klemperer/RPO "classic" recording of the Brahms Deutsches Requiem and I've never been able to 'dig' this work, despite repeated attempts. It seems so leaden to me and very muddy, lacking the melodic and harmonic interest of, say, the symphonies.

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    Senior Member Lunasong's Avatar
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    Here's an article published today about Stephen Schwartz's visit:
    Paying it Forward
    Our choral director is H.D., quoted in the article.
    "To be a musician is a curse. To NOT be one is even worse." Jack Daney

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    Senior Member Lunasong's Avatar
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    We started last night's rehearsal with a new warm-up. We were supposed to hum, but with our mouths open. The only way I could figure out how to do this was by closing my throat, so I am not sure if I was doing it right. Then, starting from that same position, we cycled through vowel sounds; first on the same pitch, and then on an arpeggio. This exercise is designed to develop resonance while working on matching up our vowel sounds.

    First piece up was Mvt 4. We spent what seemed like a great deal of time on the first 32 measures. The tenors got drilled on their big soli part Wie lieblich sind deine Wohnungen, Herr Zebaoth! After this, the rest of the movement seemed to go so much better, even the fugue-like sections.

    Next we tackled Mvt 6. Our director divided it into 3 sections, and we started on the last and worked our way backwards. This is a tricky movement (rivaled by Mvt 3) with multiple tempo changes and some fugue sections. We then read it forward, doing our best to look up to catch the tempo changes whilst reading the part.

    These two movements took more than an hour and a half of practice, and then finally, break! It was really hot in the room and such a relief to get out into the hallway and even outside for some fresh air.

    We then did Mvt 7, having now initially read through all the movements. It seemed quite easy after the more difficult sections we had completed.
    Look at this lovely little pattern marked for us in our music. This pattern happens twice in this movement. It is ascending a scale in triplets, passing from the bass up through the soprano.


    Next week we are going to break into sectionals and work on the two difficult Mvts 3 & 6, and our director has promised the German pronunciations will be posted on our website. We are expected to do quite a bit of independent practice on our own.

    I heard some really nice things in this rehearsal and I am quite looking forward to performing this piece!
    "To be a musician is a curse. To NOT be one is even worse." Jack Daney

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    Senior Member Lunasong's Avatar
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    I was late to rehearsal this week and thus missed the warm-up. One consistent and favorite initial feature of our warm-up is the back rubs we give the person on each side of us...
    As promised, we were in sectionals this week, men and women, both working on movements 3 and 6. We were able to make a lot of progress on these more difficult movements. The singing is mostly chromatic, but there are some large intervals. It is very important that we make our entrances with confidence and it is not always intuitive what the first note in the phrase is.

    Our chorus director outlined the structure of the Requiem and said we will follow this structure in our rehearsals:

    3.....6
    2.....5
    1.....7
    ...4


    We still have not progressed to German but our chorus website now has pronunciation guides posted, which I hope to check out shortly. This weekend I am working on the two movements with the assistance of the Cyberbass website, my piano, and a good beer. I'm marking references in my music for where to find the entrance notes and have also highlighted my alto staff so I can consistently find it as it moves from being 2nd to third on the stave (as the baritone solo part is listed).
    "To be a musician is a curse. To NOT be one is even worse." Jack Daney

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    Senior Member Lunasong's Avatar
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    I was on time this week and curiously, no warmups...we went right into sectionals and rehearsed movements 3 and 6. Still no German in rehearsal.

    The German is now posted via links on our website. I cannot open them using Google Chrome and have to use Internet Explorer. Similarly, I have the same issue with the sound file on Cyberbass. I started working on the German tonight.
    "To be a musician is a curse. To NOT be one is even worse." Jack Daney

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    Quote Originally Posted by CountenanceAnglaise View Post
    I have the Klemperer/RPO "classic" recording of the Brahms Deutsches Requiem and I've never been able to 'dig' this work, despite repeated attempts. It seems so leaden to me and very muddy, lacking the melodic and harmonic interest of, say, the symphonies.
    I couldn't dig it either, when I owned the acclaimed EMI Philharmonia O./Klemperer et al recording. "Leaden and muddy" was pretty much my take, also.

    HvK (DG) and Herreweghe (harmonia mundi) with two different styles to the rescue. You may find a recording that clicks. Don't give up.

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    Senior Member Lunasong's Avatar
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    Working independently on German today. From our resources:

    Johannes Brahms was highly sensitive to his texts, both in his choice of them and how he set them to music. This skill was surely at this most acute in his choice and combination of verses from the Bible--a particular irony considering that he was not at all conventionally devout and was perhaps agnostic. Heinz Beckler, the author of the essay on Brahms in The New Grove, explains his spiritual orientation as follows:

    Brahms was never "religious" in the strict sense of the word, but in the humane sense he was a Christian. The habits which outlasted his childhood included reading from the children's Bible he was given in the year of his birth and from which he compiled the texts for his sacred choral works. He read it constantly; to the end of his life it remained his book of books, and his correspondence is astonishing for its subtle grasp of problems in the scriptures. His personal religious viewpoint was logically thought out, as shown in his confessional German Requiem, which suppressed the eschatological objectives of the Christian faith in favor of a pious orientation to this world. "Life steals more from on than does death," he remarked once about himself. K. M. Reintaler tried to persuade him to add an appropriate movement to bring the Requiem nearer the spirit of Good Friday; Brahms politely but firmly refused, and the final passages of the work are dominated not by a vision of merciless death but by comfort for those who are left to mourn.

    More later.
    "To be a musician is a curse. To NOT be one is even worse." Jack Daney

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    Senior Member Lunasong's Avatar
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    At last...German.

    We rehearsed movement 1 and added the German. After the last two arduous weeks, it seemed so much easier. We were urged to think about the meaning of the words as we sang:

    Blessed are those who mourn,
    for they shall be comforted.

    Those who sow with tears
    will reap with joy.
    They go forth and weep,
    bearing precious seeds,
    and return rejoicing,
    bringing their sheaves.

    Matthew 5:4; Psalm 126: 5-6.

    We were told be be especially aware of the a cappella section at the beginning; an intonation trap for lesser choirs. We don't want to be one of them.

    Then we worked extensively on Mvt 2, again with the German.

    For all flesh is like the grass
    and all the magnificence of mortals
    is like the flowers of the grass.
    The grass has withered,
    and the flower has fallen away.

    So now be patient, dear friends,
    until the life hereafter.
    Behold, a husbandman waits
    for the precious fruits of the earth
    and is patient
    until he receives
    the early and later rain.

    But the word of the Lord endures forever.

    The redeemed of the Lord will return
    and come to Zion with shouts of joy;
    eternal joy will be upon their heads,
    joy and delight will overcome them
    and sorrow and sighing will have to depart.

    1 Peter 1:24; James 5:7, 8a; 1 Peter 1:25; Isaiah 35:10.

    Our director noted that this movement can be mapped to the stages of grief.

    We were again urged to think about the meanings of the words as we sang them. As we sing "Denn alles Fleisch..." we are to sound stark and bleak. "Das Gras is verdorret" is nostalgic and pitiful. We worked on tempo changes, of which there are several.
    The movement starts in 3/4 quarter note=72. At the key change it gets much faster (quarter note = 100), then returns to Tempo I and the original key. Then another key change and tempo change, this time conducted in 6, quarter note = eighth note, so about 1/2 speed. This doesn't last long, we move into 4/4 (Die Erloseten des Herrn), (my notes say Happy, happy!) at 120-128. Then a bit slower (Freude und Wonne) quarter note 104-108, to the end. The articulation markings change between sostenuto and marcato throughout.
    "To be a musician is a curse. To NOT be one is even worse." Jack Daney

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