Brahms: Choral Works

Monteverdi Choir
Concertgebouw Orchestra
Luxembourg Philharmonic Orchestra
John Eliot Gardiner - conductor

Concert dates:

8.15pm, Thursday 6 October
Het Concertgebouw, Amsterdam
8.15pm, Friday 7 October
Het Concertgebouw, Amsterdam
9.00pm, Saturday 8 October
Het Concertgebouw, Amsterdam
8.00pm, Thursday 13 October
Philharmonie, Luxembourg
8.00pm, Friday 14 October
Philharmonie, Luxembourg

​In October 2022, the Monteverdi Choir and John Eliot Gardiner joined the Concertgebouw Orchestra and the Luxembourg Philharmonic Orchestra for a programme of choral works by Brahms. The Concertgebouw Orchestra also performed Brahms’ Symphony No. 3 and the Luxembourg Philharmonic Orchestra performed Dvorák’s Symphony No. 5.

Brahms: Choral Works

Nänie, op. 82
Ich schwing mein Horn, op. 41 nr. 1
Fünf Gesänge, op. 104
Vier Gesänge, op. 17
Gesang der Parzen, op. 89
Es tönt ein voller Harfenklang
Nachtwache 1
Einförmig ist der Liebe Gram

Robert Schumann urged the 20-year-old Johannes Brahms to direct his magic wand ‘where the power of the masses in chorus and orchestra may lend him strength’. John Eliot Gardiner’s approach to Brahms’s symphonies, placing them alongside the composer’s earlier choral works, casts fresh light on the works and reminds us of the intrinsic vocality of his writing for orchestra.

The opening of Nänie has been described as the most radiant music Brahms ever wrote: a tender oboe melody ushers in the graceful canonic entries of the voices to the words ‘Behold, the gods weep, all the goddesses weep / that beauty fades, that perfection dies’. The piece is a setting of a poem by Friedrich Schiller, referring to characters from Greek mythology: Orpheus mourning his lost Eurydice; Aphrodite, whose lover Adonis was killed while hunting; and Thetis, who failed to save her son Achilles from death. Brahms wrote it in response to the death of his friend, the painter Anselm Feuerbach.

Gesang der Parzen (Song of the Fates) sets a ballad by Goethe, with music of the most advanced harmony alongside unmistakeable allusions to the earlier German composers Brahms admired, such as Bach.

The programme also includes unaccompanied works for choir and the magical Vier Gesänge, Op.17, for women’s voices, two horns and harp.


‘The choir grew with him and if there are choirs that can sing fluently as if a warm knife is sliding through the butter, it is Gardiner’s Monteverdi Choir, which in the choral works of Brahms moved subtly back and forth between silky lyricism and heady drama. Gardiner himself conducted his choir and the Concertgebouw Orchestra in Brahms as if his hands and arms could sing, while the rest of his body gently bounced along on the undulating structures.’ De Nieuwe Muze

‘This is John Eliot Gardiner (79) at his best: the hands that have been molding the voices of the Monteverdi Choir for many years now also mold a sound that cuts through the marrow and bone. Clarity does go hand in hand with warmth here, firmly substantiated by the Concertgebouw Orchestra. ‘Hhhhhhhaupt’, a perpetual conclusion, there is no other chorus that sends such a word - like a pure sigh - into the world so meaningfully.’ Het Parool

‘The Monteverdi Choir, with 38 singers entered, then offered us choral singing at the highest level: phrasing, sound development, musicality, intelligibility - here it was everything. Above all, it was the natural breath that awarded the interpretation of the Monteverdi Choir, and the art, special and always suitable sound colours for every mood.’ Tageblatt

The Art of Conducting with Sir John Eliot Gardiner produced by Orchestre Philharmonique du Luxembourg.

Listen to the 2008 recording of Brahms Choral Works & Symphony No. 3 via spotify or purchase the recording on the SDG shop.