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Requiem (Gabriel Fauré)




The first half of the 19th century saw the birth of a particular type of sensibility which influenced the way people related to death. The French Revolution, then the military campaigns mounted by the Napoleonic Empire, gave rise to large-scale national funeral commemorations, which were perpetuated by the expiatory policy undertaken by the Restoration, then the worship of the July heroes typical of the reign of Louis-Philippe. As well as this abundance of lavish funerals, there was a wholly Romantic liking for this theme, which became a favourite subject for artists. Of the many requiems composed in France in the 19th century, Fauré’s is noteworthy not only for its remarkable legacy – performed at the funeral of François Mitterrand in 1996 at Notre-Dame, it is genuinely regarded as a French funerary monument – but also for the originality of its structure and inspiration. The work departs from the sequence of pieces in the ordinary and proper of the mass, which are usually set to music by composers: in fact, this requiem has no Gradual, Prose or Benedictus. Fauré was also distancing himself in this work from the dramatic mood generally cultivated by composers who had tackled this task before him, replacing it with a certain “otherworldliness”. These distinctive traits were not in the least governed by the circumstances surrounding the first performance of the work: it was in fact premiered on 16 January 1888, for the funeral of an “ordinary parishioner”, to quote the composer’s own words, which took place at the church of La Madeleine (where Fauré was choirmaster and organist at the time). However, it should be noted that this requiem was written just after the death of the composer’s two parents.

    Person - 1
  • FAURÉ, Gabriel (1845-1924)
  • Theme - 1
  • Genre – La musique sacrée au XIXe siècle