JOHANNES BRAHMS (1833 - 1897)
Vier ernste Gesänge, opus 121
orchestration by Henk de Vlieger, 2012
1. Denn es gehet dem Menschen
2. Ich wandte mich
3. O Tod, wie bitter bist du
4. Wenn ich mit Menschen- und mit Engelszungen redete
Since my childhood, I have felt a great affinity with the music of Johannes Brahms. The admiration for my great idol found expression in 1998 with my orchestration of his last work, Elf Choralvorspiele, opus posth. 122. In the same period I had the idea of orchestrating his penultimate work Vier ernste Gesänge, opus 121 as well.
Of course I was well aware of the fact that these songs have been orchestrated already; by Günter Raphael, Ludwig Misch, Erich Leinsdorf, Karl Michael Komma and some others. In contrast to the existing orchestral versions, I planned to create an arrangement that takes into account both the principles of Brahms' instrumentation and the gentle character of the songs. I selected a fairly small orchestra with only two horns (these can be natural horns!) and double woodwind with contrabassoon. Timpani are employed in the first song only, trombones in the third song only, and I have dispensed completely with bass tuba, harp and trumpets.
It took me more than a decade to conquer my doubts. Finally, a planned performance was a good reason to finish the orchestration. This first performance took place on March 1st, 2013 by the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Philippe Herreweghe.
Henk de Vlieger
Orchestra: 2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, contrabassoon, 2 horns, 3 trombones, timpani, strings