2016-11-13 Notes from the Bench

“Requiem in D Minor” by Gabriel Fauré

A commentary on this week’s music by Dr. James T. Gerber, Music Associate


Requiem aeternam dona eis–rest eternal grant unto them (Missa pro Defunctis, Introit). During the month of November, the Church pauses to remember all those who have gone before us into eternal life. This evening, November 13, the All Saints’ community will celebrate our annual Solemn Requiem, remembering of all those of our parish who have recently died. The music for our Requiem service will be the well-known and beloved Requiem in D Minor (Op.48) by Gabriel Fauré. The “Fauré Requiem” was composed between 1887 and 1890. The first version of this work, completed between 1887-1888, was titled “un petit Requiem” (a small Requiem) that included five of the movements: Introit and Kyrie, Sanctus, Pie Jesu, Agnus Dei, and In Paradisum. This early version was performed for the funeral Mass of Joseph Lesoufaché, an architect, at the Church of La Madeleine in Paris on January 16, 1888. Fauré later added an Offertory movement and the Libre me, which was originally written as an independent piece. The final version full orchestral accompaniment was completed between 1899 and 1900 and premiered at the Trocadéro in Paris on July 12, 1900. Faure’s Requiem was performed for his own funeral Mass in 1924. This work was first performed in the United States in 1931.



Customs of commemoration and praying for the souls of the departed can be traced back to pre-Apostolic times; the Jewish people prayed for the eternal rest of the deceased’s immortal souls. November 2 is “All Souls Day” on the Christian calendar; the liturgy for the day is traditionally the Mass for the Dead (Missa pro Defunctis or Mass of the “finished”) or a “Requiem.” A requiem is commonly celebrated at the time of one’s death or burial. Over the centuries, the term “requiem” has been applied to a musical genre as well. For centuries, composers have set the prescribed texts of the Mass for the Dead to various styles of music ranging from plainsong and polyphony to large-scale choral works accompanied by an orchestra that are frequently performed as concert works.

The composer said of the work, “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.” He told an interviewer,

It has been said that my Requiem does not express the fear of death and someone has called it a lullaby of death. But it is thus that I see death: as a happy deliverance, an aspiration towards happiness above, rather than as a painful experience. The music of Gounod has been criticized for its inclination towards human tenderness. But his nature predisposed him to feel this way: religious emotion took this form inside him. Is it not necessary to accept the artist’s nature? As to my Requiem, perhaps I have also instinctively sought to escape from what is thought right and proper, after all the years of accompanying burial services on the organ! I know it all by heart. I wanted to write something different.

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