|(Brahms circa 1853)|
Swafford wrote that from early on, "Music was Brahms's religion." In Dan Barker's article subtitled "Brahms the Freethinker," it was stated that Johannes had originally "pored over the Bible beyond the requirements for his Protestant confirmation." He therefore was probably more familiar with Scripture than many believers, but chose a humanist agnostic path instead.
After his mother's death, Brahms wrote what he considered to be a "personal testament" (as opposed to a liturgical mass): Ein deutsches Requiem ("A German Requiem"). Wikipedia explains that although biblical lyrics were present (such as those with "words of comfort to the bereaved"), many were deliberately omitted (such as some that convey the very essence of popular Christian beliefs).
When conductor Karl Reinthaler suggested that "salvation in the death of our Lord" be emphasized in the Requiem, Brahms remained firm in his approach by answering, "As far as the text is concerned, I confess
that I would gladly omit even the word German and use Human; also with my best knowledge and will I would dispense with passages such as John 3:16."
John 3:16 (depicted widely with billboards, tattoos, etc.) reads as follows in the King James Version: "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life."
Although Brahms wasn't keen on standard Christian doctrine, he nevertheless expressed compassion and
empathy for the oppressed. Amidst the growing anti-Semitism of his time and place, Brahms called it "madness" and talked about having himself circumcised in protest. In general, he lived an exemplary life, "generous and helpful, sharing his wealth liberally, living simply and humbly, giving of his time and energies to others."
Copyright May 7, 2013 by Linda Van Slyke All Rights Reserved