Lesson #54: The Requiem

My feelings about and struggles with it as an adult aside, I grew up in the Church and I’m quite fond of the music.* Say what you will about the church, but it has guided 6000 years of history and about 1500 years worth of music; that’s no small feat. Anyway, in honour of my lawyer housemate’s orchestra’s performance with the Philharmonic Choir of Verdi’s Requiem this evening, a little bit about requiems in general.

The requiem is a Roman Catholic funeral mass, also used by the Anglican and Eastern Orthodox churches,** sung (usually)  in Latin, with its name derived from the first word of the Introit. The best known of these were composed by Mozart (1791),*** Verdi (1874)**** and Faure (1887-1890),***** but there are literally about 100 of them. No lie. Dvorak, Berlioz and Stravinsky each wrote one. Most of these, however, fall under the category of concert requiems. I’d venture to guess that few people beyond monarchs and other very distinguished individuals are laid to rest to Mozart. In fact, Verdi wrote his requiem in honour of Alessandro Manzoni, an Italian poet who he admired.******

To read a very thorough and informative summary of the religious aspect of the requiem, including a discussion on when Canon Law dictates a requiem may be performed and vestment colours to be used, see here.

And while we’re on the subject of classical music, but on the complete other end of the musical mood spectrum, I accidentally learned today (don’t ask how I got there) that the movement The Tortoise from Saint-Saens’ Carnival of the Animals, — which, if I have ever heard in its entirety, hasn’t been since I was probably 8 — is Offenbach’s Infernal Galop (the can-can song) played on strings and slowed WAY down. So I went looking for it and proceeded to laugh through the entire thing because it’s so genius! I enjoy clever things.

*And know it well enough to know that the piece of music that plays over the credits of the movie Doubt, which is an excellent film, was a. arranged by Sir David Willcocks and b. almost certainly not a piece of music that would be heard in a Roman Catholic church.

**Which makes sense given that Anglicanism and Eastern Orthodoxy fall under the umbrella of the Holy Catholic Church — an accurate point my mother failed to win in an argument with my European History teacher when I was 15 and learning about Martin Luther and the birth of Protestantism.

***The most famous piece from Mozart’s Requiem in D Minor, the Lacrimosa can be found here. Despite my general dislike for Mozart — sacrilege, I know — I really like this piece of music.

****The most famous piece from Verdi’s Requiem, Dies Irae can be found here.

*****The most famous piece from Faure’s Requiem in D Minor, the Pie Jesu can be found here. I’m not that big a fan of it, to be honest. I much prefer In Paradisum.

******Verification of that fact here, among many other places.

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