Fauré's Requiem

We don't have a lot of time to rest before our next concert: a collaboration with the Calgary Philharmonic Chorus and organist Neil Cockburn! Luminous Voices will be presented by the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra as part of its Calgary Phil Presents concert series on Wednesday 09 May. The second half of the collaborative program will feature the Requiem by the French composer Gabriel Fauré.

About Gabriel Fauré

Gabriel Fauré (1845-1924)

Gabriel Fauré

Gabriel Fauré is regarded as one of the foremost French composers of his generation. Fauré composed many of his most highly regarded works in his later years in a more harmonically and melodically complex style, which influenced other composers of the 20th century.

Fauré's music has been described as linking the end of Romanticism with the modernism of the second quarter of the 20th century. When he was born, Chopin was still composing, and by the time of Fauré's death, jazz and the atonal music of the Second Viennese School were being heard. Fauré became a founding member of the Société Nationale de Musique, formed in February 1871 to promote new French music. Other members included Saint-Saëns, Bizet, Chabrier, Franck and Massenet. Many of Fauré's works were first presented at the Society's concerts. In 1920, at the age of 75, he received the Grand-Croix of the Légion d'Honneur, a rare honour for a musician.

DID YOU KNOW... Fauré was hugely popular in Britain. He visited often and even played at Buckingham Palace in 1908. He attended the London premiere of Elgar's First Symphony that year and had dinner with Elgar afterwards. "I admired him greatly," said Elgar, who tried to get Fauré's Requiem put on at the Three Choirs Festival.

Requiem in D minor, Op. 48

Everything I managed to entertain by way of religious illusion I put into my Requiem, which moreover is dominated from beginning to end by a very human feeling of faith in eternal rest.
— Gabriel Fauré (1921)

Fauré composed his Requiem between 1887 and 1890. At La Madeleine church in Paris in 1888, Fauré conducted the premiere of the first version of his Requiem, which only included five movements (Introit et Kyrie, Sanctus, Pie Jesu, Agnus Dei and In Paradisum). In 1893, Fauré conducted the premiere of a revised version, again at La Madeleine in Paris, now with an Offertory movement and the Libera Me.

DID YOU KNOW... The Dies irae (Day of Wrath), a hymn from the Requiem Mass that describes the Last Judgement, is not included in Fauré's setting, in keeping with the composer's views about death. In fact, Fauré saw death as a "happy deliverance, an aspiration towards happiness above, rather than as a painful experience", a sentiment that resembles the Requiem composed by his contemporary Johannes Brahms.

In 1899-1900, at the insistence of his publisher, Fauré reworked the score for full orchestra for performance in concert halls. The 1888 and 1893 premieres of the Requiem were at La Madeleine, a church in Paris, so the intimate sound of the earlier versions was effective in liturgical performances. But for the large concert venues, and large choral societies of the time, a larger orchestra was required.

At the time the Fauré Requiem was first performed, church authorities disallowed female singers and insisted on boy treble and alto choristers and soloists; Fauré composed the work with those voices in mind, and had to employ them for his performances at La Madeleine. However, in the concert hall, unconstrained by ecclesiastical rules, he preferred female singers for the upper choral parts and the solo in the Pie Jesu movement.

The final version reworked for orchestra was premiered in Paris on 12 July 1900, during the Exposition Universelle. This full orchestral version was also performed at Fauré's own funeral in 1924l he had died in Paris from pneumonia on 4 November 1924 at the age of 79.

What to expect on May 9, 2018

Instead of a full orchestra, the collaborative performance by Luminous Voices and the Calgary Philharmonic Chorus will be accompanied by Neil Cockburn playing the Carthy Organ in the Jack Singer Concert Hall. The movements of theFauré Requiem include:

  1. Introit et Kyrie
  2. Offertory
  3. Sanctus
  4. Pie Jesu
  5. Agnus Dei
  6. Libera Me
  7. In Paradisum

The work features soprano and baritone soloists. Our soloists for this production are Hannah Pagenkopf, soprano, and Nicholas Allen, baritone. The work will be conducted by Timothy Shantz, who is both founding director of Luminous Voices, and the Chorusmaster of Calgary Philharmonic Chorus.