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Great Requiems

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 Jen
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According to Wikipedia, more than two thousand Requiems have been composed (I wonder how they count that?).  They range from the huge concert oratorios by Berlioz and Verdi, to intimate works like Herbert Howell’s lovely setting of Psalm 23.  There are even ‘settings’ that forgo the words and are purely instrumental.

We’ve mentioned Verdi and Mozart Requiems here before, along with Britten’s War Requiem, and the lesser known, but wonderful Requiem by Duruflé.

But I wonder: which of the Requiems do you love (or loathe)?

I’ll start with a confession: Fauré’s Requiem seems to be much loved, but it leaves me cold. I’ve heard good concert performances, and sung it (too many times), but no more please!

Perhaps my favourite of all Requiems is the F minor setting by Heinrich Ignaz Franz Biber.  It’s an exquisite small scale work that deserves to be better known.

The recording I might choose by Ricercar Consort is beginning to show its age:

https://app.idagio.com/recordings/23915666

As I write, I’m much enjoying this more recent recording:

https://app.idagio.com/recordings/39476842

 


   
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 Jen
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Biber’s F minor Requiem leads me to Durante’s wonderful G minor Requiem written almost half a century later.  Durante composed more than one setting (as did Biber), but this setting in G Minor is especially appealing to me.

Was Durante familiar with Biber’s work? There are similarities in the treatment of harmonies, in the delicious dissonances, and what seem to be quotes in the word setting, too.  ‘Dies Iræ’, for example?

Surprisingly, on Idagio, I can find only two recordings, of which this is the most recent:

https://app.idagio.com/albums/durante-requiem-in-g-minor

It’s a lovely pensive (perhaps sometimes a little too pensive?) performance, and a light touch using small forces.  And a great work!

 


   
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 Hugh
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It seems Durante was another composer born in the 1680s who lived into the middle of the 1700s like Bach, Handel, Vivaldi and Telemann. However, to my ears the requiem sounded like one from an earlier century. As with much early music I found it difficult to listen for long at a time because of the limited variation in texture, tempo and dynamics, however I found the chromaticism wonderfully expressive in sadder passages.

I only saw two recordings on Apple Music: the Astrarium one and one from Moldova.


   
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 Jen
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 Posted by: @hugh

However, to my ears the requiem sounded like one from an earlier century.

I agree, the choral writing more than hints at renaissance polyphony.  It seems that Durante intended it to be performed by small forces, and perhaps that was to bring out the contrapuntal nature? (I’m not sure how big the choir and orchestra are in the Moldava recording, it sounds like there’s at least a thousand of them!).  

And I’m inclined to agree about the limited variation in tempi: I sense that’s a stylistic choice from the Astrarium Consort.  I’d love to hear this work performed with some sections at a faster tempo and with increased energy. 

(As an aside: Durante also wrote a set of eight (or nine?) concerti for strings, which certainly sound of their time.  I’m very fond of the three minor key concerti:

https://app.idagio.com/albums/durante-concertos-for-strings

There’s also a lovely setting of the Lamentations, which could be late baroque or early classical.)


   
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