Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Requiem – The man behind it

by Joseph Bartolo

Maruice DurufleMaurice Duruflé was born on the 11th of January 1902 and died on the 16th of June 1986. He lived in Louviers, Eure in France. Duruflé was an organist at various cathedrals as well as a composer and a music teacher. In 1927, Louis Vierne, an illustrious organist and composer, appointed Duruflé as his assistant organist of Notre-Dame. Durufle’s repertoire is quite vast and it includes pieces for piano, organ, chamber music, piano for four hands, two pianos, orchestra and choral music among others.

Probably the most famous of his pieces and the one for which he is most acclaimed for is the ‘Requiem Op9’ which he finished composing in September 1947. ‘Requiem Op9’ is considered to be the greatest masterpiece in choral music of the twentieth century. It is continuously interpreted by choirs around the world in great venues synonymous with classic music.

Requiem Op9

Requiem by SCJThere are different ideas regarding the commissioning of this piece. Some studies reveal that the work on this piece started in a period when Duruflé was enchanted by Gregorian chant. The fact that it was dedicated to his father is a certainty. Duruflé admitted that his intention was to forge something innovative from this style of music. After finishing the ‘Sanctus’ and the ‘Libera Me’ he realised that it was illogical to isolate the Latin text from the music. This is because the Gregorian theme is based on the text and not the other way round. So Duruflé changed his mind and created a piece for the choir, organ and soloists. Many feel that it was Duruflé who introduced this style of music but it is also known that Tomas Luis de Victoria, a renaissance composer, had already adapted the ‘Missa Pro Defunctis’ on the Gregorian chant. To understand better the Gregorian chant, Duruflé consulted Le Guennant – liturgist, theologian and musician. The composer succeeded to preserve the Gregorian theme in the modern musical structure. Even though this piece might sound simple, in fact it is pretty complex, particularly with regards the tempo.

Later on, Duruflé modified this composition for the orchestra. During this stage he kept this work faithful to his first piece. The ‘Requiem’ is set in 9 movements which are the Introit (‘Requiem Æternam’), ‘Kyrie Eleison’, Offertory (‘Domine Jesu Christe’), ‘Sanctus – Benedictus’ ‘Pie Jesu’, ‘Agnus Dei’, Communion (‘Lux Æterna’), ‘Libera Me’ and ‘In Paradisum’. Despite the fact that the ‘Requiem’ is based on the choir and orchestra, the organ is of utmost importance. Moreover, the composer coloured this piece with airs for the Contralto and the Baritone.

All music lovers visiting Gozo on Sunday 6th April will be able to attend for a performance of this masterpiece which will be interpreted by the Schola Cantorum Jubilate and the Malta Philharmonic Orchestra. This performance will be held at the Basilica of Maria Bambina in Xagħra. Entrance is free and everyone is invited.

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