By Jerry Rich, Director of Music
Gabriel Fauré composed his Requiem in 1887, conducting its premiere at Paris’ fashionable church of The Madeleine on January 16, 1888. This first version had five movements: Sanctus, Pie Jesu, Agnus Dei, and In Paradisum. He added an Offertory in 1889, and inserted a previously-existing Libera Me in 1893.
In contrast with other famous Requiems by Mozart, Berlioz and Verdi, Fauré’s is notably serene and gentle. He avoids the operatic style preferred by Parisian ears as well as the massive Germanic treatment favored in other European music centers. Fauré’s most dramatic moment is the Dies Irae (“On that day of wrath”). Unlike Berlioz’s four brass bands or Verdi’s off-stage trumpets, Fauré’s two horns briefly proclaim “that day” in the Libera Me. Its flexible melodies and subtle rhythms (modeled on Gregorian chant) are framed by restrained dynamics, muted colors and suavely modal harmonies.
On All Saints’ Day (Sunday, November 1), Trinity’s choir will offer four movements from Fauré’s Requiem (In Paradisum, Libera Me, Sanctus and Agnus Dei) at the 10:30 am service, while soprano Catherine Wethington will sing his prayerful Pie Jesu at the 8:30 a.m. service; the bulletin will contain translations of the Latin texts.
“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: a happy deliverance, an aspiration towards happiness above, rather than as a painful experience… 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.” Gabriel Fauré, 1902