Requiem (Verdi)

From Academic Kids

The Requiem by Giuseppe Verdi is a musical setting of the Roman Catholic funeral Mass (called the Requiem for the first word of the text, which begins Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine, meaning, "Grant them eternal rest, O Lord"--see full entry at Dies Irae) that was completed on the anniversary of the death of Alessandro Manzoni, an Italian poet and novelist much admired by Verdi.

Historical Context

Verdi wrote the Requiem's concluding "Libera me" section in 1868, when Gioacchino Rossini died. Verdi suggested that all Italian musicians should assemble a Requiem in honor of the master opera composer and conductor and began the effort by submitting the "Libera me." Over the next few years a Requiem for Rossini was compiled; however, this work was never performed. Verdi's 1869 "Libera me" has been recorded, though. Verdi kept toying with his "Libera me," frustrated that the combined commemoration of Rossini's life would not be performed.

In May of 1873, Alessandro Manzoni, whom Verdi had meet in 1868, interestingly enough, died suddenly on his way home from church. Upon hearing of his death, Verdi resolved to complete a Requiem--this time entirely of his own writing--for the humanist. Verdi travelled to Paris in June, where he commenced work on the Requiem, giving it the form we know today. The Requiem was first performed the following May, on the one-year anniversary of Manzoni's death.

Throughout the work, Verdi uses vigorous rhythms, sublime melodies, and dramatic contrasts--much as he did in his operas--to express the powerful emotions engendered by the text. The terrifying (and instantly recognizable) "Dies Irae" that introduces the traditional sequence of the Latin funeral rite is repeated throughout for a sense of unity, which allows Verdi to explore the feelings of loss and sorrow as well as the human desire for forgiveness and mercy found in the intervening movements of the Requiem. Trumpets surround the stage to produce an inescapable call to Judgement in the "Tuba mirum", and the almost oppressive atmosphere of the "Rex tremendae" creates a sense of unworthiness before the King of Tremendous Majesty. Yet the well-known tenor solo "Ingemisco" radiates hope for the sinner who asks for the Lord's mercy.

The joyful "Sanctus" begins with brassy fanfare to announce him "who comes in the name of the Lord" and leads into an angelic "Agnus Dei" sung by the female soloists with the chorus. Finally the "Libera me," the oldest music of the Requiem, interrupts to intone every man's aching desire to be delivered from oblivion. Here the soprano cries out, begging, "Free me, Lord, from eternal death.... when you will come to judge the world by fire."

Structure of the Work

1. REQUIEM and KYRIE (chorus, soloists)

2. DIES IRAE

Dies irae (chorus) - Tuba mirum (chorus, bass) - Mors stupebit (bass) - Liber scriptus (mezzo-soprano, chorus) - Quid sum miser (soprano, mezzo-soprano, tenor) - Rex tremendae (soloists, chorus) - Recordare (soprano, mezzo-soprano) - Ingemisco (tenor) - Confutatis (bass, chorus) - Lacrimosa (soloists, chorus)

3. OFFERTORIO (soloists)

4. SANCTUS (double chorus)

5. AGNUS DEI (soprano, mezzo-soprano, chorus)

6. LUX AETERNA (mezzo-soprano, tenor, bass)

7. LIBERA ME (soprano, chorus)

Recordings

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