Monday, 17 March 2014

Durufle Requiem by Schola Cantorum Jubilate

by Stefan Attard

posterlowThe word ‘Requiem’ brings in mind the Mass for the repose of souls. In fact it is derived from the Introit of the liturgy: ‘Requiem æternam dona eis, Domine’ – ‘Grant them eternal rest, O Lord’

For many centuries, the text of the Requiem was sung to Gregorian melodies but around the last half of the 15th century, composers started exploiting these chants to create new musical settings. Presently around 2000 compositions of the Requiem exist. Some were written for a cappella choruses while others include the organ or even an orchestra. Soloists are sometimes featured to sing in some of the Requiem Mass movements.

Durufle’s ‘Requiem’ which contains nine movements, was completed in September 1947. It is undisputedly considered a choral masterpiece of the twentieth century. It was commissioned by the music publisher Durand and is believed that have been written in memory of Durufle’s father. The work is for an SATB choir.  However soloists take the lead in certain movements. The ‘Pie Jesu’ is sung by a mezzo-soprano and a baritone intervenes in the third movement ‘Domine Jesu Christe’ and in the penultimate one ‘Libera Me’. Orchestrations exist for the organ alone or for organ with a string orchestra and trumpets, harp and timpani.

Duruflé was seduced by the beauty of the Gregorian chant and incorporated it in this composition. In fact, he has been erroneously credited as the first to compose music based upon Gregorian chant, particularly extracting themes from the ‘Missa Pro Defunctis’.  However, in the Renaissance period, Tomas Luis da Victoria was the first to use the Gregorian theme in his ‘Officium Defunctorum’ for six voices. However, Victoria’s setting lacks parts that Duruflé included.

reqiuem promolowIn the coming month, this work will be performed for the first time in Malta by the Schola Cantorum Jubilate together with the Malta Philharmonic Orchestra under the direction of Mro Christopher Muscat. Organist Simone Vebber who boasts of an international reputation will accompany the choir. The solo parts are assigned to mezzo-soprano Marvic Monreal and Bass Albert Buttigieg. Mro. Mark Gauci is the choirmaster.

Apart from Durufle’s ‘Requiem’, the concert will include other motets which will be interpreted a cappella by the choir and Vivaldi’s ‘Sinfonia al Santo Sepulcro’ performed by the Malta Philharmonic Orchestra.

Performances are held on Friday 4th and Saturday 5th April at Robert Sammut Hall in Floriana. Then on Sunday 6th April, the same performance will be held at the Basilica of Xagħra, Gozo. While tickets are needed for the performances in Malta, the performance in Gozo is free of charge.

Undoubtedly, this is going to be another production which exalts the musical artistry while pleasing the audiences and enriching the local musical scene with such great works.

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