The German Requiem was inspired by the death of the Johannes Brahms’s mother, as well as by his disillusionment with traditional religion.
Although the requiem genre had long had a double life as a piece for either church or concert hall, it had still traditionally stayed close to its roots in religious ceremony.
Composers from Mozart to Verdi thus usually set a standard text, which had been handed down since the medieval era.
Dissatisfied with this option, Brahms instead chose his own biblical verses, all of which emphasize comfort in the face of inevitable death.
Although the movement we just heard is the fifth movement, it was composed last, and added only after other portions of the work had already been performed.
The final, complete work was first heard at the inauguration of the famous Gewandhaus concert hall in Leipzig.