Salon at Sakura #5 10/28/12 Requiems

Last night’s Salon pieced together sections of various Requiems.  It was well attended, and I think we were all struck by the passion and emotion in every selection, from Tomas Luis Victoria in the 17th century to Brahms, Faure and Verdi in the 19th.


The term Requiem musically was originally referred to as a setting of the Roman Catholic Requiem Mass, or Mass for the Dead.  Currently however, the term has expanded to mean other compositions that have to do with death or mourning.

Most of what we will be listening to tonight come from the Catholic Mass settings.

Mozart’s Requiem in d minor (1791) was left unfinished at his death, and was posthumously completed by his student Franz Sussmayr based upon Mozart’s notes.  The autograph manuscript shows the finished and orchestrated introit in Mozart’s hand, as well as detailed drafts of the Kyrie and the sequence Dies Irae as far as the first nine bars of “Lacrimosa”, and the offertory It cannot be shown to what extent Süssmayr may have depended on now lost “scraps of paper” for the remainder; he later claimed the Sanctus and Agnus Dei as his own.    

Mozart had been re-scoring Handel’s Messiah just prior to working on his Requiem, and it is rumored that he had also been studying Bach’s b minor Mass.  That results in a very strong Baroque flavored tinge to the work, albeit with the Mozart touch.  The Kyrie uses the same melody as Handel’s “And With His Stripes”, both in a fugue. 

Tonight we start with Mozart.

1. Requiem Aeternam

Requiem æternam dona eis, Domine,
et lux perpetua luceat eis.
Te decet hymnus Deus, in Sion,
et tibi reddetur votum in Ierusalem.
Exaudi orationem meam;
ad te omnis caro veniet.
Requiem æternam dona eis, Domine,
et lux perpetua luceat eis.
Grant them eternal rest, O Lord,
and let perpetual light shine upon them.
A hymn becomes you, O God, in Zion,
and to you shall a vow be repaid in Jerusalem

Hear my prayer;
to you shall all flesh come.
Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord,
and let perpetual light shine upon them.


2. Kyrie Eleison

Kyrie eleison;
Christe eleison;
Kyrie eleison.
Lord have mercy;
Christ have mercy;
Lord have mercy.


Next we jump ahead quite a bit in years and in style.   Brahms wrote his requiem, A German Requiem, between 1865 and 1868.  Unlike most of the Requiems written before, this does not use the Latin Mass but instead uses texts based on Luther’s Bible, in German.  It has a darker, German tone to it as well.

Brahm’s version focuses more on the living survivors, rather than the deceased.  A journey from anxiety to comfort, with the Lord as source of the comfort, is common in most movements.

Tonight we are listening to three of the seven sections. 

 3. Denn alles Fleisch, es ist wie Gras

 For all flesh is like grass,
and all its glory like the flower of grass.
The grass withers,
and the flower falls… -I PETER I

Be patient, therefore, beloved
until the coming of the Lord.
The farmer waits
for the precious crop from the earth
being patient with it
until it receives
the early and the late rains.
You also must be patient. -JAMES 5


Next we have two versions of the same section of the Catholic mass, the Dies Irae.  First, the more restrained Mozart – but Mozart does have fire! – then the very dramatic and operatic Verdi.

Verdi’s Requiem was composed in 1874.  Verdi was and is known as an opera composer, and his flair for showy dramatics will be shown here.  The first thing you will notice is the quite obvious differences in style, but if you really listen you will hear many similarities.  Many of the differences were based upon the orchestra and instruments available, and the tastes of the time.  But the feel really is the same, befitting the text. 

4. & 5. Dies Irae

Dies Irae!  Dies Illa                            The day of wrath, that day

Solvet saeclum in favilla                 will dissolve the world in ashes

Teste David cum Sibylla                   as foretold by David                                           

Quantus tremor est futurus             How much tremor there will be

Quando iudes est venturis                when the judge will come

Cuncta stricte discussurus                 investigating everything                         


Now we go back in time to probably the oldest composition we have yet listened to at a Salon.  I’m actually kicking myself for only adding one selection for this wonderful piece written in 1603 by Tomas Luis Victoria, whom many of you ever in choir may know for his O Magnum Mysterium. 

One of two Requiems by this Spanish composer, this was part of a larger work (an Office of the Dead) written for the funeral of  the Dowager Empress Maria,  sister of Philip II of Spain and daughter of Charles V.

 6. Sanctus and Benedictus

Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus,
Dominus Deus Sabaoth;
pleni sunt caeli et terra gloria tua.

Hosanna in excelsis.

Benedictus qui venit in nomine Domini.
Hosanna in excelsis. (reprise)

Holy, Holy, Holy,
Lord God of Hosts;
Heaven and earth are full of your glory.
Hosanna in the highest.

Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.
Hosanna in the highest. (reprise)

 Back to Brahms, in one of the most lovely pieces written for choir.  Unusually in triple time, this lyrical piece paints a picture of peace and comfort. 

 7. Wie lieblich sind deine Wohnungen

How lovely is your dwelling place,
O Lord of hosts!
My soul longs, indeed it faints
fOr the courts of the Lord;
my heart and my flesh sing for joy
to the living God.
Happy are those who live in your house.
ever singing your praise. -PSALM 84

 We’ve had composers from Spain, Germany and Austria, let’s turn to France.  Gabriel Faure’s Requiem in d minor was written in 1890 and is probably the most personal and intimate (in musical style) that we will listen to.   As Faure himself said,

“It has been said that my Requiem does not express the fear of death and someone has called it a lullaby of death. But it is thus that I see death: as a happy deliverance, an aspiration towards happiness above, rather than as a painful experience. The music of Gounod has been criticized for its overinclination towards human tenderness. But his nature predisposed him to feel this way: religious emotion took this form inside him. Is it not necessary to accept the artist’s nature? As to my Requiem, perhaps I have also instinctively sought to escape from what is thought right and proper, after all the years of accompanying burial services on the organ! I know it all by heart. I wanted to write something different.”

8. Pie Jesu

The use of a boy soprano enhances the humanity and intimacy of this piece, befitting the text. 

Pie Jesu Domine, dona eis requiem.
Dona eis requiem sempiternam.
Merciful Lord Jesus, grant them rest;
grant them eternal rest.

 One last time to Brahms.

9. Denn wir haben hie keine bleibende Statt

Once again, Brahms opens with anxiety and foreboding, finally making his way to comfort and peace.

For here have we no continuing place,
but we seek one that is to come.

Behold, I show you a mystery:
we shall not all sleep,
but we shall all be changed;
in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye,
at the hour of the last trumpet.
For the trumpet shall sound,
and the dead shall be raised incorruptible,
and we shall be changed.
Then shall be brought to pass
the saying that is written:
Death is swallowed up in victory.
0 death, where is thy sting?
0 grave, where is thy victory?

You are worthy, our Lord and God,
to receive glory and honor and power,
for you created all things,
and by your will they existed
and were created. -REVELATI0N 4


And we end as we began, with Mozart.  Two of my very favorite choral pieces that may be very familiar to any of you that have seen the movie Amadeus.

10. Confutatis

Listen to the interplay of harmonies, and the way he contrasts the male voices with the flames, and the blessings with the female voices, and then the beautiful harmonies in the second section.

Confutatis maledictis,
flammis acribus addictis,
voca me cum benedictus. 

Oro supplex et acclinis,
cor contritum quasi cinis,
gere curam mei finis. 

When the accused are confounded,
and doomed to flames of woe,
call me among the blessed. 

I kneel with submissive heart,
my contrition is like ashes,
help me in my final condition.

11. Lacrymosa

We end with one of what is, in my opinion, one of the most beautiful choral pieces written.  Listen to how Mozart uses the strings as falling tears, such a beautiful musical picture.  The use of the choral phrasing, with halting rests, and then the increasing forte crescendo.

I love how he switches temporarily to a major key for the pie Jesu Domine, giving it the sense of piece, accentuated by that sublime clarinet phrase the follows, and then we go back to the tears.  And I love how he crescendos the final Amen, instead of the opposite.

Lacrimosa dies illa,
qua resurget ex favilla
judicandus homo reus.
Huic ergo parce, Deus,
pie Jesu Domine,
dona eis requiem. Amen
That day of tears and mourning,
when from the ashes shall arise,
all humanity to be judged.
Spare us by your mercy, Lord,
gentle Lord Jesus,
grant them eternal rest. Amen.

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