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Life Among the Dead: Requiem Masses

This week we’ll venture into hallowed territory with some of the most profound music in the literature, including requiems by Mozart, Verdi, Berlioz, Fauré, Dvořák and Duruflé.

Program 1

Bill begins the week on requiem masses with Mozart's, made infamous by the critically acclaimed Peter Schaffer film Amadeus, which holds that composer Antonio Salieri had a hand in helping Mozart complete the piece. Bill debunks this dramatization and other myths surrounding the requiem, then giving the accurate acount before sampling the first few movements of the piece.

We then hear the opening sections of the requiems of Hector Berlioz and Giuseppe Verdi of the following century. Berlioz employs a grand, yet melencholy orchestration differing greatly from the counterpoint of Mozart. Verdi, a preeminent Italian opera composer, uses soloists and shifting moods to the effect of an operatic ensemble piece.

The program closes out with Antonin Dvorak's somber and hymnal setting, as well as with Mozart's Tuba Mirum movement from the requiem.

Mozart: Requiem, Kyrie & Dies Irae fr. Requiem, K. 626
Concentus Musicus Wien/Harnoncourt
DHM 58705

Berlioz: Requiem & Kyrie fr. Grande Messe des Morts
London Symphony Orchestra and Chorus/Davis
Phil 157302

Verdi: Requiem & Kyrie fr. Requiem Mass
London Symphony Orchestra and Chorus/Bernstein; Arroyo, s.; Veasey, ms.; Raimondi, bs.; Domingo, ten.
Sony 47639
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Dvorák: Kyrie fr. Requiem Mass, Op. 89
Czech Philharmonic Orchestra & Chorus/Ancerl
Sup 3673

Mozart: Tuba Mirum fr. Requiem
Concentus Musicus Wien/Harnoncourt; Finley, bar.; Schäfer, s.; Fink, alto; Streit, ten.
DHM 58705

Program 2

The second program features two lengthy excerpts from the requiems of Berlioz and Verdi. We hear their Dies Irae, or "Day of Wrath" passages, in which Berlioz has multiple brass choirs  playing an ominous theme derived from a traditional Gregorian chant to awe-inspiring effect.

Verdi's setting of the same music contains many similarities to Berlioz's, yet Verdi's focus on soloists and dramatic mood shifts aligned with the text evoke scenes from a grand opera.


Berlioz: Dies Irae fr. Grande Messe des Morts
London Symphony Orchestra and Chorus/Davis
Phil 157302

Verdi: Dies Irae & excerpts fr. Requiem Mass
Berlin Phil/Abaddo; Gheorghiu, s.; Barcellona, ms.; Konstantinov, bs.; Alagna, ten.
EMI 57168
36:18, 3:15

Program 3

Next we hear the remainder of the "Sequentia" section of Mozart's requieum, containing the Confutatis and the Lachrymosa, the last music he wrote before passing. He only completed the first few measures of the movement, the remainder of the requiem completed by a pupil from previous sketches and dictations he had taken from the ailing composer.

Berlioz's massive Sequentia is a stark contrast to Mozart's setting, Bill calling it "anything but tender," written for an orchestra and chorus of unprecetended size. The program closes out with the much more intimate setting of Gabriel Fauré.

Mozart: Rex Trememde, Ricordare, Confutatis & Lachrymosa fr. Requiem, K. 626
Concentus Musicus Wien/Harnoncourt
DHM 58705
13:54, :50

Berlioz: Quid sum miser, Rex tremendae, Quaerens me & Lachrymosa fr. Grande Messe des Morts
London Symphony Orchestra and Chorus/Davis
Phil 157302

Fauré: Sanctus, Pie Jesu, & Agnus Dei fr. Requiem, Op. 48
La Chapelle Royale Paris/Herreweghe
HM 901292
7:47, 3:57

Program 4

The program begins with the remainder of Mozart's setting of the requiem, although what remains was not written by Mozart himself. Rather his pupil, Franz Xavier Süssmayrwho utilized Mozart's previous material for the requiem in order to maintain continuity and attempt authenticity.

Bill then returns briefly to Berlioz's Sanctus, and finally the thrilling and profound conclusion to Verdi's version of the same text. The program concludes with the most recent setting heard yet by French composer Maurice Duruflé.

Mozart: Sanctus, Benedictus, Agnus Dei & Lux Aeterna fr. Requiem, K. 626
Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and Chorus/Shaw
Telarc 80128

Berlioz: Sanctus fr. Grande Messe des Morts
BSO/Munch; Simoneau, ten.
RCA 6210

Verdi: Sanctus, Agnus Dei, Lux Aeterna & Libera Me fr. Requiem Mass
Philharmonia Orchestra & Chorus/Giulini; Ludwig, ms.; Schwarzkopf, s.; Gedda, ten.; Ghiaurov, bs.
EMI 67563

Duruflé: Sanctus fr. Requiem, Op. 9
Orchestra and Chorus of the Academy of Saint Cecilia/Chung; Terfel, bar.; Bartoli, ms.
DG 459365

Program 5

The final program on requiem masses focuses solely on what is perhaps Bill's favorite setting, that of Johannes Brahms. This piece differs from the previous in that it is the only to not use the traditional liturgical Latin text. As the title "Ein deutches Requiem" implies, Brahms wrote his setting in the German language. 

In each movement, Brahms captures a huge emotional span by taking sorrowful, dark music and lifting it up into a bright and hopeful mood. Bill uses a rather pessimistic quote from William Shakespeare on the legacy of men after they die to show how Brahms rejects this notion with the generous and consoling music found in the requiem.

Brahms: German Requiem, Op. 45: I-IV, VI
Philharmonia Orchestra/Klemperer; Fischer-Dieskau, bar.
EMI 66955
9:53, 14:26, 9:48, 17:22


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