The Requiem , Op. The thematic material is mostly taken from the Mass for the Dead in Gregorian chant. The Requiem was first published in by Durand in an organ version. He completed it in September At the time of the commission, he was working on an organ suite using themes from Gregorian chants. He incorporated his sketches for that work into the Requiem, which uses numerous themes from the Gregorian "Mass for the Dead".
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All Events. The Requiem, from , began as a series of organ works based on chant, a genre common enough for organists at the time. Between the ages of 10 and 16 he was a student at the choir school of Rouen Cathedral. He also studied with Louis Vierne — , who held the most prestigious organ post in Paris, that of Notre Dame cathedral.
An automobile accident in drastically curtailed his activity thereafter. The four motets of Op. But unquestionably he is most famous for his masterpiece, the Requiem Op. The French Revolution of , and the execution of Louis XVI in , brought an abrupt halt to a monarchy that could be traced back to Charlemagne in the eighth century.
But the monarchy was not the only target of the Revolution: aristocrats were fair game, as was anyone connected with the church. In France, of course, this meant the Catholic Church. The First Republic brought on by the Revolution was followed by Napoleon and the First Empire, where the church fared only somewhat better. Thanks to Napoleon, for example, even today a church marriage is not valid in France or Belgium, for that matter ; only a civic marriage is legal. Napoleon wanted power in one institution only.
After Napoleon a limited monarchy was restored; this ended with the advent of the Second Republic in a year of revolution across much of Europe , followed four years later by the Second Empire.
Thus, the nineteenth century saw France swing back and forth between conservative and progressive governments, with the significance of the church waxing and waning accordingly. During the restoration of the monarchy, one of the monasteries revived was that of the Benedictine community of Solesmes pronounced so-LEM. His goal was to restore plainchant to its Gregorian roots. The monks of Solesmes thus became leaders in a long-lasting international movement to bring chant back to its medieval form and medieval style of performance—or, to be blunt, what they thought that performing style might have been, since more than years had passed since plainchant was first written down and it had hardly remained static in the intervening period.
The restoration movement was controversial and it was not until the early 20th century that the Vatican gave its imprimatur to the work of Solesmes. But its influence in France continued to grow, as did interest in all aspects of early music. The Schola Cantorum, for example, was founded in specifically to support musical reform in the liturgy in the guise of chant and Palestrina-style polyphony; specialized chant journals appeared, and so on.
The relevant chants for the mass are laced throughout the various movements, sometimes in the voices, sometimes in the instruments, sometimes clearly stated, sometimes embellished the latter being standard practice for organists, for whom improvisation on a sacred melody was a standard professional expectation in their positions. Now check out the Tenor and Bass octave melodic line that begins our work.
Well, look at that! Very often only a single voice part is singing, and plainchant was of course monophonic, a single vocal line. This emphasis on the melodic line is sometimes underscored by sustained instrumental accompaniment when the baritone solo enters after rehearsal 40, for example.
At rehearsal 78 and 80, for example, we sing the Communion verse exclusively in syllabic text-setting on repeated notes. The actual chant, though likewise syllabic with repeated notes, has at least some melodic interest through rising and falling pitches. It is certainly one of the choral masterpieces of the twentieth century.
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