The near-iconographic photo of Johannes Brahms shown here, taken in 1889 when the composer was 56, is so widely used that it has evolved into a sort of visual shorthand to communicate “Brahms-ness.”
Certainly this is the image most of us bring to mind when we think of Brahms: the bearded elder statesman of German music of the mid-19th century, authoritative and aloof. And certainly this is the image that seems to be used in nearly every promotion for a concert of Brahms’ music, to the exclusion of any other images. And that's why when we think of Brahms, we think of this Brahms: bearded, past middle age, wise and perhaps a little world-weary.
But many of Brahms’ compositions with which we are most familiar were written much earlier in his life, before he grew the famous beard and before age and illness had whitened his blond hair.
This is perhaps most true of Brahms’ first masterwork, the Requiem.
Brahms was just 35 when he completed the Requiem in 1868, 33 years before the famous photo shown above was taken.
Here is a portrait of Brahms from 1866 or 1867, around the time he was composing and revising the Requiem (which had its premiere in 1868).
Does this beardless face surprise you?
Though Brahms had tried several times to grow a beard, it was not until 1878, when he was 45, that he succeeded. Once he had the beard, he never shaved it off, and it eventually grew long and full, and he remained bearded for the remaining 19 years of his life. So though we usually think of Brahms as bearded (because of that famous photo!), he was actually beardless for most of his adult life.
To many of us, 35 seems very young, does it not? But as we will hear when CONCORA presents the Requiem this Sunday, October 15, though Brahms may have appeared youthful at the time he created this amazing music, he had certainly achieved musical maturity. CONCORA’s Artistic Director Chris Shepard calls the Requiem “one of the most enduring works in the choral repertoire,” and indeed, in its mastery of form, depth of emotion, and encompassing of the human experience of mortality, there is almost nothing to compare to it.
And when we remember that Brahms achieved this when he was only 35 years old, it is all the more remarkable.
In this portrait from 1878, about ten years after he completed the Requiem, we see that Brahms had finally succeeded in growing a blond-brown beard.
This photo was taken about three years before he composed Nänie, a shorter but equally compelling choral work with which CONCORA will open this concert.
Brahms’ incessant cigar smoking aged him prematurely, and he was to die of liver cancer in 1897, at age 64. The photo shown here was taken in 1896, when he was already ill. But his sense of humor, his joie de vivre, is evident in those twinkling blue eyes.
Yes, he was curmudgeonly, but mostly he was shy, and he hid his shyness under his gruffness — and behind that big beard.
Do come to hear CONCORA sing these two beautiful choral works – the Requiem and Nänie.
Perhaps knowing that it was not this guy who composed the Requiem—
but this guy—
—will inspire you to come to hear the Requiem anew, to experience it not as the swan song of the iconic older composer looking to the end of his life, but as the wrenching outpouring of a much younger man at the beginning of his career who had already experienced terrible loss, yet who was able to transform his heartbreak into enduringly beautiful music for every person, for every heart, for every age, especially today.
Please join us for what is sure to be a moving and memorable musical experience.
"...they shall have joy and gladness
and pain and suffering shall flee away"
CONCORA opens the 2017-2018 season on Sunday, October 15 with one of the most enduring works in the choral repertoire, the German Requiem of Johannes Brahms.
The concert begins at 4:00 PM at South Church, 90 Main Street, New Britain.
Tickets are on sale now ($10-$55). Order online or contact the CONCORA office at email@example.com or 860-293-0567. Purchase a season subscription by October 15 for the best prices of the season! Bring some friends and take advantage of groups rates for eight or more tickets (advance sales only, please). Tickets will also be available at the door. Click on the picture or the map below to view Google Maps to get directions from your location.
In the 2017-2018 season, CONCORA celebrates masterworks of the choral art, with fresh interpretations of music that many consider the greatest examples of the genre, including the Requiems of Brahms and Mozart and Bach’s monumental Saint Matthew Passion, all under the direction of Artistic Director Chris Shepard.
Season subscriptions for all five main-stage concerts are on sale through October 15, 2017. A season subscription offers the best value and guarantees your seats throughout the season. New this season: A special thank-you just for subscribers! When you subscribe to all five concerts by October 15, we will send you a private code by which you may enjoy $5 off additional general admission tickets for any of the five season concerts, purchased at any time during the season. Visit CONCORA's website for informationon concerts, season subscriptions, and more. Tickets for all CONCORA concerts and events may be purchased at any time at our secure ticketing site, or by contacting the CONCORA office at 860-293-0567 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
CONCORA sings Extraordinary Choral Masterworks Saturday, November 18 2017, 7:30PM Saint Thomas the Apostle Church 872 Farmington Ave, West Hartford, CT
Continuing a long tradition of inclusion and outreach, CONCORA will be joined by gifted Connecticut choirs from high schools in Litchfield, Bristol, and Ledyard to present a program of
selections from choral masterworks by Bach (Saint Matthew Passion), Mozart (Requiem), and Brahms (A German Requiem), plus works by Faure, Thompson, and others. For many of the young singers, this concert will be their first opportunity to collaborate with professional musicians, and may be their first experience with this enduring repertoire and with singing in an acoustically resplendent space like Saint Thomas the Apostle Church.The concert is inspiring and enriching for listeners, too, as a listener said of last year’s Extraordinary Concert: “What a treat to sit and be bathed in glorious sound. The young voices were so fresh and clear and the ensemble sound quite breathtaking. The variety of musical offerings was a delight to the listener and perfectly suited to that grand space.” Tickets are on sale now ($10-$55); purchase a season subscription by October 15 for the best prices of the season. Bring some friends and take advantage of groups rates for eight or more tickets (advance sales only, please).
Friday, November 3, 2017, 7:30 PM St Mark the Evangelist Church
467 Quaker Lane, West Hartford, CT
CONCORA's Friends of Bach presents an engaging program of music by Johann Sebastian Bach and Carl Philip Emmanuel Bach, performed on harpsichords, clavichords, and positive organ. Featured performers include keyboardists Edward Clark, Christa Rakich, and Stephen Gamboa-Diaz, with guest artists Emlyn Ngai, baroque violin; Andrea LeBlanc, baroque flute; Alice Robbins, baroque cello; and a special appearance by CONCORA vocalist Jermaine Woodard, Jr., baritone. All proceeds support CONCORA's performance of the Saint Matthew Passion on March 25, 2018. The program includes selections by J.S. Bach (Preludes from the Well Tempered Clavier, an aria from the Saint Matthew Passion, and Brandenburg Concerto No. 5) and C.P.E. Bach (movements from a harpsichord concerto arranged for two clavichords). Tickets are just $10-$30 and are on sale now.
Did you get a copy
We're excited about the colorful 2017-2018 "Masterworks" season brochure! If you did not receive a brochure and wish to, contact the CONCORA office to request a copy and to update your mailing address. You won't want to miss a thing!
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CONCORA’s 2017-2018 season is made possible through the generous gifts of many individual donors and with the generous support of the following foundations and institutions: the American Savings Foundation; the Greater Hartford Arts Council; the Richard P. Garmany Fund at the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving; the J. Walton Bissell Foundation; the William T. Sloper Trust for the Andrew J. Sloper Music Fund; the State of Connecticut, with the support of the Department of Economic and Community Development, Office of the Arts, which also receives support from the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency; the Helen M. Saunders Charitable Foundation; the Edward C. & Ann T. Roberts Foundation; the Ensworth Charitable Foundation; the City of New Britain Commission on the Arts; the William and Alice Mortensen Foundation; and the Robert C. Vance Charitable Foundation.