Tag Archives: Johannes Brahms

Denn alles Fleisch, es ist wie Gras



Posted here (above) is what seems to me to be one of the best renditions of “Denn alles Fleisch, es ist wie Gras” (For all flesh, it is as grass), the second movement of Brahms’s Ein deutsches Requiem (A German Requiem), performed by the Berlin Philharmonic.




As I noted in a previous post of mine:

“on hearing Brahms’s Requiem; views on death”

on hearing Brahms’s Requiem; views on death

This extraordinarily powerful, lyrical movement never fails to move me. I had long thought that the lyrics must mean something like: Let’s face it, everyone is going to die; death and decay are inevitable. But the words from scripture are actually consoling.

“From the beginning Brahms had intended the work to be more of a consolation for the living than a memorial for the dead. …” — Program Notes, 1998 Summer Concert of the San Francisco Lyric Chorus




Denn alles Fleisch es ist wie Gras
und alle Herrlichkeit des Menschen
wie des Grases Blumen.
Das Gras ist verdorret
und die Blume abgefallen.
So seid nun geduldig, lieben Brüder,
bis auf die Zukunft des Herrn.
Siehe, ein Ackermann wartet
auf die köstliche Frucht der Erde
und ist geduldig darüber,
bis er empfahe den Morgenregen und Abendregen. So seid geduldig.
Aber des Herrn Wort bleibet in Ewigkeit.
Die Erlöseten des Herrn werden wieder kommen und gen Zion kommen mit Jauchzen;
Freude, ewige Freude,
wird über ihrem Haupte sein;
Freude und Wonne werden sie ergreifen,
und Schmerz und Seufzen wird weg müssen.


Behold, all flesh is as the grass,
and all the goodliness of man
is as the flower of grass.
For lo, the Grass with’reth,
and the flower thereof decayeth.
Now, therefore, be patient, O my brethren, unto the coming of Christ.
See how the husbandman waiteth
for the precious fruit of the earth,
and hath long patience for it,
until he receive the early and latter rain.
So be ye patient.
Albeit the Lord’s word endureth for evermore. The redeemed of the Lord shall return again and come rejoicing unto Zion;
gladness, joy everlasting,
joy upon their heads shall be;
joy and gladness, these shall be their portion, and sighing shall flee from them.


— Roger W. Smith

    July 2018





I had a girlfriend in college who disliked Brahms. I had no idea why. She used to say to me — emphatically, repeatedly — “I hate Brahms!”

I like him, I thought.

Perhaps she hated Brahms because he was German and she was Jewish.

My love and admiration for Brahms have grown deeper and deeper over the years. His music thoroughly engages me emotionally AND intellectually.

I have posted here three more Brahms tracks:


The first movement (Allegro non troppo) from the Piano Quintet in F minor, Op. 34.



The first and fourth movements (both marked Allegro) from the String Quartet No. 1 in C minor, Op. 51.

“New and improved” in the arts is not always better.


Last night, Friday, November 10, I attended a concert at Carnegie Hall in New York which included a performance of Saint-Saëns’s string quartet No. 1 in E Minor.

In the program notes, it was noted that Saint-Saëns was “an aesthetic conservative [who] railed against the stylistic innovations of Debussy and Les Six.” Les Six were a group of French composers that included Georges Auric, Louis Durey, Arthur Honegger, Darius Milhaud, Francis Poulenc, and Germaine Tailleferre.

The concert also included a performance of Brahms’s stupendous String Quartet No. 1 in C Minor, Op. 51, No. 1. A contemporary of Saint-Saëns (who outlived Brahms by a half a century), Brahms was considered a conservative within the romantic tradition.

That I like these two composers so much and am not crazy about the music of composers such as Debussy and Ravel (who Saint-Saëns also did not have a taste for) — for the most part (I am unfamiliar with the composers of Les Six) — makes me, no doubt, easily identifiable as having conservative tastes.

Yet, so many of the composers (and writers) whom I admire were profoundly original. This includes Beethoven and, yes, Shakespeare, to take in two spheres of the creative arts. I suspect that few would engage in dispute upon this. Many artists now ensconced in the canon were once regarded as being so original if not mystifying and transgressive that their works were often ignored or ridiculed.

Another thought occurred to me as a result of what the program notes said about Saint-Saëns: “Progress” in the arts, the new and avant-garde, is not always better. A distinction should be made between works that were “revolutionary” in their time and, also, indisputably great and many iconoclastic works that were perhaps intended to titillate or shock that will probably not stand the test of time. Take the visual arts for example. The Museum of Modern Art and the Whitney Museum in New York City are chock full of works that illustrate this. And consider the many writers who seem to illustrate this: Céline, Kerouac, William S. Burroughs, to name just a few.

The dustbin of the arts awaits.

Creative geniuses are emerging all the time. Whose work is revolutionary and profoundly original. I would cite examples such as Alban Berg and Philip Glass in music, Thomas Wolfe and William Faulkner in fiction, and Hart Crane and Wallace Stevens in poetry.


— Roger W. Smith

   November 11, 2017



Addendum: My good friend Bill Dalzell, an original thinker skeptical of much of what is considered orthodoxy, used to say, “Science marches backward.” A paradox. Meaning that, while it might seem absurd, there is an element of truth in it. Perhaps the arts don’t always march forward.