Johannes Brahms told the music director of Bremen Cathedral, Carl Reinthaler, that he would have gladly called his German Requiem “Ein menschliches Requiem” – a human Requiem. It is this name, which Brahms also mentioned in a letter to Clara Schumann, that German playwright Jochen Sandig seized upon for his innovative performance of the work with the Rundfunkchor Berlin, which comes to Australia for the Adelaide Festival in March.

In spite of the nationalist overtones that might be read into...

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