The Piano Concerto in D minor which premiered in 1859 was universally detested, so Johannes Brahms dedicated his attention to composing extended chamber works. Eventually he reworked an abandoned slow movement of the concerto into a choral setting of the chorale Denn alles Fleisch es ist wie Gras. This became a cantata, which in time was extended to six movements with solos for soprano and baritone called A German Requiem. The deaths of his mother and his mentor, Robert Schumann, made Brahms contemplate mortality. The composer denied that the Requiem was specifically for Schumann, but rather for 'the whole of humanity'.
A German Requiem does not move audiences with fire and brimstone but instead touches the heart with its serenity. This performance lives up to its name. Soprano Elizabeth Schwarzkopf and baritone Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau were at the peak of their form when this recording was made and make memorable solo contributions. The Philharmonia Orchestra and Chorus are under the direction of one of the century's greatest conductors, Otto Klemperer who paces things superbly, with devastating impact in the magnificent sarabande of the second movement. The Alto Rhapsody, Op. 53, is a composition for contralto, male chorus, and orchestra, a setting of verses from Johann Wolfgang von Goethe s Harzreise im Winter.