The premiere of Ein deutsches Requiem, on Good Friday 1868, represented a final breakthrough as a composer for the then 34 year-old Brahms. The renowned critic Eduard Hanslick wrote: “Nothing that measures up to Brahms’ Requiem has been composed since Bach’s B minor Mass and Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis.” The work was universally thought to confirm Schumann’s 1853 prophecy to the effect that Brahms would become one of Germany’s greatest composers.
Schumann’s early, tragic death in 1856 was Brahms’ initial inspiration for the Requiem. From their first meeting in 1853, Brahms had become almost an adoptive child of Robert and Clara Schumann. A close friendship developed between the mature forty year-old Robert and the youthful, personable Johannes – as did a lifelong love of Johannes for Clara. Robert encouraged the youngster to study the Bible and the old masters. This led to Brahms becoming acquainted with the music of Bach. Also, in 1854, he wrote a work that would remain uncompleted but later form the kernel of his Requiem.