As a music critic I have attended a sufficient number of Masses to considerably shorten my time in Purgatory, but I would trade them all – by Mozart, Bach or Verdi – for one live performance of Brahms’ German Requiem. In terms of architectural construction, innovation, melody, counterpoint and deep feeling, it has no equal.

And in his selection of passages from Martin Luther’s German translation of the Bible, Brahms creates a threnody that reaches far across religious boundaries.

The performance of the requiem Sunday afternoon by the Oratorio Chorale, under the direction of Emily Isaacson at Woodfords Congregational Church in Portland, was one of the most moving musical events of the decade.

Brahms’ own transcription for piano four-hands, played by Justin Blackwell and Derek Herzen, was more revelatory of the composer’s intentions, and his unique voice, than the standard version. At times it sounded like his piano concertos and at others like the “Liebeslieder” waltzes.

Soprano Margot Rood and baritone Bradford Gleim added significantly to the effect, but it was the chorale itself that took the honors, with a power that could raise the dead and a sweetness that could make them happy with it.

Christopher Hyde is a writer and musician who lives in Pownal. He can be contacted at:

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This review will be updated.