Unique in its status as a non-liturgical Requiem, following adapted Lutheran writings instead of the traditional Latin Catholic text for a death mass, Ein Deutsches Requiem takes its place in the few religious works of music composed by the Romantic Period master Johannes Brahms. Choosing an approach that harkened back to traditional German melodies, alongside the composition style of Bach and Beethoven, he created a work noticeably different from his other pieces for orchestra, yet holding many of the stylistic hallmarks of his typical writing.


The tastes and conventions with which music has been performed have changed dramatically, even within the last hundred years, pivoting from one extreme of the spectrum to another. To understand where music performance styles have come from, one must examine where the world of performance has been, where the traditions and practices that performers hold dear today originate from, and the ideologies from whence they come.

Where better to start then, in terms of performance tradition, with the great expansion that was performing convention in the late 19th century. With the advent of ever larger orchestral works, in the symphonies…


Today, while listening to the Lunchtime Concert on BBC Radio 3, I was taken quite by surprise, pleasantly so, upon hearing a rendition of the Brahms F Minor Sonata (Op. 120, No. 1) being played by clarinet and piano. Before this afternoon, I had only ever performed or even heard it played on the viola (with some adjustments for double-stops and range of course) and was struck by how different it sounded on the clarinet, not only in tone and timbre, but in the very fabric of the piece and how it came across to the listener.


While Tchaikovsky is often better known for his ballet music and programmatic works, his symphonies, in particular the 5th, keep the mystical allure and distinct taste of Russia that is so cherished by listeners of his work. The 5th symphony carries with it a brilliant amalgamation of Russian and German symphonic style, mixing traditional thematic treatment through texture, the hallmark of the Russian style, with a more architectural form, that of the German romantic composers. …


The opening to Bruckner’s 8th symphony is perhaps one of the composer’s most well-known moments, a growing ostinato in the strings giving way to a glorious brass melody, fringed with fanfare motifs in the trumpets. The theme moves around different keys before giving way to woodwind renditions of the figure.


While events in Europe had been rapidly escalating, the USA engaged in an increasingly hostile war of words against the USSR on many fronts, affairs in Asia had quickly been moving out of control. The civil war in China between the nationalist government led by Chiang Kai-shek and the communist insurgents led by Mao Zedong, having resumed with the end of the Second World War, had reached a critical stage, in which the communists had announced victory. On the 1st of October 1949, Mao Zedong proclaimed a new communist China to the world. This immediately increased tensions between east and…


Following the end of the Second World War, and the agreements formalised at the Potsdam Conference of August 1945, Germany, and its capital city, Berlin, was divided into four sectors, one controlled by Britain, France, the USSR and USA respectively. The problematic nature of this division comes into light with the geographical location of Berlin: far enclosed within the USSR ’eastern’ sector. With the control of ‘western’ sectors of Berlin carried out within the Russian sector of Germany by military forces of the west, both east and west were facing a delicate issue. In the eyes of the USSR, Berlin…


Affairs in Berlin, Asia and Latin America are omitted. They will be covered in another article.

Truman Doctrine

As a result of increasing levels of conflict, violent and non-violent across Europe as the precise alignments of countries was decided, the USA moved, astonishingly, in favour of an interventionist policy in Europe. Having isolated itself for the past half century, providing little but small financial aid until the Second World War, Truman now positioned the USA as the firm leader of the west, fathering the recovery of all the European states. He outlined, in a speech to Congress, his goals of containing communism…


The years following the close of the Second World War would see an escalation of tensions between east & west in the political outlook and policy of the leaders of the respective sides. The USA, having emerged relatively unscathed from the war, a gift of its geographically isolated position and delayed entry into the conflict, was in a better economic state than the rest of the west, and proffered a hand to help Europe recover through its interventionist policies and European Recovery Program (ERP). The USSR, while severely damaged in both industrial and overall economic capacity, aimed to also exert…


Ideologies of the 20th Century

Following the October communist revolution led by Vladimir Lenin in Petrograd (later named Leningrad in honour of the Russian leader, originally and currently named St. Petersburg) in 1917 and the bitter civil war in the years following, Russia emerged as the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) in 1921. The first of many socialist states to appear on the world stage, the USSR quickly manifested its policy and beliefs onto the globe, the expansion of communism and hatred of “imperialistic” capitalism at its core. The death of Lenin in 1924 and Joseph Stalin’s ascension to power that same year then…

Jao-Yong Tsai

Conducting student, performer and writer, with interests in history and interpretational style. Compositional work here: https://bit.ly/3tfKzFH

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store