Local Culture: The Palmerston North Choral Society performance of Requiems by Mozart and Fauré

20170708_184032Recently the Significant Other treated me to an evening out in Palmerston North where we attended performances of Mozart’s and Fauré’s requiems. In classical music requiem, or more properly Requiem Mass, is a musical setting of the Catholic religious service offered for the souls of the deceased. Originally performed most often in the context of a funeral, the beauty of the music written for these services is such that requiems are often performed, as they were on this occasion, for their artistic value alone.

This month’s attendance, and particularly Mozart’s Requiem, were marred by the numerous errors of the organist, including a poor balance between the overpowering volume of the organ and the maximum ability of the choir. Still, it was enough for me to get a feel for the shape of the pieces, and a live performance is always to be enjoyed.

Mozart’s Requiem, which comprised the first half of the evening, was commissioned by Count Franz von Walsegg in 1791 in memory of his late wife. However, it was incomplete when Mozart passed away at the end of the year, and was subsequently finished by Franz Xaver Susssmayr (1766-1803), who was popular in his own right during the period but whose work has not endured as Mozart’s has. As Mozart was ill for several months before his death, it may well be true that he treated the work as his own Requiem. I found this work to be heavy, dark, and solemn, which is arguably appropriate to the subject, with a heavy emphasis on human unworthiness for salvation and the need for God’s mercy.

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Fauré’s (1845-1924) Requiem, composed during the Romantic period, has a much lighter and more hopeful touch, although of course many of the words are the same as Mozart’s – as s setting of a particular liturgy, all Requiems have the same lyrics, although most Requiems set only part of the liturgy whilst leaving others to be spoken. It finishes with the In Paradisum: ‘Into paradise my the angels lead you. In your coming may the martyrs receive you, and may they guide you into the holy city, Jerusalem’ [translated]. According to the Significant Other this is one of his favourite pieces, and I can see why.

This was one of the best evenings out I’ve had in a long time – and not just because of the music 😉

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