Gabriel Fauré composed his Requiem in D minor, Op. 48, between 1887 and 1890. The choral-orchestral setting of the shortened Catholic Mass for the Dead in Latin is the best-known of his large works. Its focus is on eternal rest and consolation. Fauré's reasons for composing the work are unclear, but do not appear to have had anything to do with the death of his parents in the mid-1880s. He composed the work in the late 1880s and revised it in the 1890s, finishing it in 1900.

In seven movements, the work is scored for soprano and baritone soloists, mixed choir, orchestra and organ. Different from typical Requiem settings, the full sequence Dies irae is omitted, replaced by its section Pie Jesu. The final movement In Paradisum is based on a text that is not part of the liturgy of the funeral mass but of the burial.

Fauré wrote 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."[1]

The piece premiered in its first version in 1888 in La Madeleine in Paris for a funeral mass. A performance takes about 35 minutes.

History[edit | edit source]

Fauré's reasons for composing his Requiem are uncertain. One possible impetus may have been the death of his father in 1885, and his mother's death two years later, on New Year's Eve 1887. However, by the time of his mother's death he had already begun the work, about which he later declared, "My Requiem wasn't written for anything – for pleasure, if I may call it that!"[2] The earliest composed music included in the Requiem is the Libera me, which Fauré wrote in 1877 as an independent work.[3]

In 1887–88, Fauré composed the first version of the work, which he called "un petit Requiem"[4] with five movements (Introit and Kyrie, Sanctus, Pie Jesu, Agnus Dei and In Paradisum), but did not include his Libera me. This version was first performed on 16 January 1888 for the funeral of Joseph Lesoufaché, an architect, at La Madeleine, Paris.[5] The composer conducted his work; the treble soloist was Louis Aubert.[5]

In 1889, Fauré added the Hostias portion of the Offertory and in 1890 he expanded the Offertory and added the 1877 Libera me. This second version was premiered on 21 January 1893, again at the Madeleine with Fauré conducting. The church authorities allowed no female singers and insisted on boy treble and alto choristers and soloists; Fauré composed the work with those voices in mind, and had to employ them for his performances at the Madeleine, but in the concert hall, unconstrained by ecclesiastical rules, he preferred female singers for the upper choral parts and the solo in the Pie Jesu.[6]

In 1899–1900, the score was reworked for full orchestra. This final version was premiered at the Trocadéro in Paris on 12 July 1900, during the Exposition Universelle. Paul Taffanel conducted forces of 250 performers.[7]

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."[1] 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 criticised 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.[8]

In 1924 the Requiem, in its full orchestral version, was performed at Fauré's own funeral. It was not performed in the United States until 1931, at a student concert at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia. It was first performed in England in 1936.[9]

Text[edit | edit source]

Most of the text is in Latin, except for the Kyrie which is Koine Greek. As had become customary, Fauré did not set the Gradual and Tract sections of the Mass. He followed a French Baroque tradition by not setting the Requiem sequence (the Dies irae), only its section Pie Jesu. He slightly altered the texts of the Introit, the Kyrie, Pie Jesu, Agnus Dei, and In Paradisum, but substantially changed the text of the Offertory (described below). He did not set the Benedictus (the conclusion of the Sanctus), and added two texts from the Order of Burial, Libera me and In Paradisum.[10]

Fauré made changes to the text of the Offertory; at the beginning, he adds an "O". He changed "libera animas omnium fidelium defunctorum" ("deliver the souls of all the faithful departed") to simply "libera animas defunctorum" ("deliver the souls of the departed"). He replaced "Libera eas" ("Deliver them") at the beginning of the next verse with a repetition of "O Domine Jesu Christe, Rex gloriae, libera animas defunctorum", and he omitted the third verse (beginning "Sed signifer sanctus ..."). He concludes with an added "Amen".[11]

Structure and scoring[edit | edit source]

The composition is structured in seven movements: Template:Ordered list The piece has a duration of about 35 minutes.

Fauré scored the work for two soloists, chorus and orchestra. Its movements and their sections are listed in a table for the scoring in voices, key, time signature (using the symbol for common time, equivalent to Template:Time signature) and tempo marking. The voices are abbreviated, S for soprano, A for alto, T for tenor, B for bass. The composer divides the choir into as many as six parts, SATTBB, but frequently uses unison of one part or several. Given the liturgical nature of the work, boy trebles are often used instead of sopranos.

Versions[edit | edit source]

Fauré revised and enlarged the Requiem in the years between its first performance in 1888 and the publication of the final version in 1901. The latter is scored for full orchestra; since the 1970s attempts have been made by several Fauré scholars to reconstruct the composer's earlier versions, scored for smaller orchestral forces.

First version[edit | edit source]

Five of the seven sections of the Requiem were completed by January 1888 and performed that month at the Madeleine for the funeral of the architect Joseph Lesoufaché.[5][n 1] This version lacked the Offertoire and Libera me, which Fauré added at some time in the following decade.[13] The Libera me predates the rest of the Requiem, having been composed eleven years earlier as a baritone solo.[3] The forces required for the original 1888 version were a choir about forty in number consisting of boys and men (the Madeleine did not admit female choristers), solo boy treble, harp, timpani, organ, strings (solo violin, divided violas, divided cellos and basses). For a performance at the Madeleine in May 1888 Fauré added horn and trumpet parts.[14]

1893 version[edit | edit source]

Fauré continued to work intermittently on the Requiem, and by 1893 he judged the score ready to be published (although the proposed publication fell through). Several attempts have been made to reconstruct the score as it was in 1893. The Fauré specialist Jean-Michel Nectoux began working on it in the 1970s,[15] but the first edition to be published was by the English conductor John Rutter in 1989.[15] Nectoux's edition, jointly edited with Roger Delage, was published in 1994. They had the advantage of access to important source material unavailable to Rutter: a set of orchestral parts discovered in 1968 in the Madeleine and a score made in the 1890s by a bass in the Madeleine choir and annotated by Fauré.[15] Music and Letters judged the Rutter edition, "makeshift and lacking in the standards of scholarship one expects from a university press".[15] The Musical Times considered the Nectoux and Delage edition "invaluable".[16]

Fauré's own manuscript survives but, as the critic Andrew Thomson puts it, "the waters were muddied by his overwritings on the original MSS, adding two bassoons and two more horns and trumpets, together with modifications of the cello and bass parts."[16] Reviewing the Nectoux and Delage edition, Thomson wrote of "several pleasant surprises [including] the restoration of the urgent timpani rolls underlining 'Christe eleison', and the ethereal harp chords which so enhance the spiritual atmosphere of 'Lux aeterna'".[16]

For the 1893 version a baritone solo, two bassoons, four horns and two trumpets are added to the original scoring. When possible Fauré employed a mixed choir and a female soprano soloist, partly because the soprano lines, particularly the solo in the Pie Jesu, are difficult to sing and demand excellent breath control, easier for adult women than for boys.[17]

Final version[edit | edit source]

At the end of the 1890s Fauré's publisher, Julien Hamelle, suggested that the composer should rescore the Requiem for performance in concert halls. The intimate sound of the earlier versions was effective in liturgical performances, but for the large concert venues, and large choral societies of the time, a larger orchestra was required. The autograph of the resulting 1900 version does not survive, and critics have speculated whether Fauré, who was not greatly interested in orchestration, delegated some or all of the revision to one of his pupils.[n 2] Many details of the augmented score differ from Fauré's own earlier amendments to the original 1888 manuscript. The new score was published in 1901 at the same time as a vocal score edited by one of Fauré's favourite pupils, Jean Roger-Ducasse,[19] and some critics have speculated that he reorchestrated the full score at Fauré's instigation.[20] Others have questioned whether so skilled an orchestrator as Roger-Ducasse would have "perpetrated such pointlessly inconspicuous doublings", or left uncorrected the many misprints in the 1901 edition.[21] Alan Blyth speculates that the work may have been done by someone in Hamelle's firm.[21] The misprints have been corrected in later editions, notably those by Roger Fiske and Paul Inwood (1978)[21] and Nectoux (2001).[22]

The orchestration of the final version comprises mixed choir, solo soprano, solo baritone, two flutes, two clarinets (only in the Pie Jesu), two bassoons, four horns, two trumpets (only in the Kyrie and Sanctus), three trombones, timpani (only in the Libera me), harp, organ, strings (with only a single section of violins, but divided violas and cellos, as before).

Nectoux has expressed the view that what he terms the "church" (1893) and the "concert" (1900–1901) versions of the Requiem should both be performed, the choice of edition being dictated by the size of the venue.[16] It is not clear whether the composer favoured either version over the other. Blyth comments "All of his comments about the Requiem ring truer as descriptions of the 1888 and 1894 [sic] versions than of the published text of 1901".[21] Fauré, however, complained in 1921 that the orchestra at a performance of the work had been too small,[23] and commented to Eugène Ysaÿe on the "angelic" violins during the Sanctus in the full orchestral version.[24]

Virginia Glee Club performances[edit | edit source]

The Virginia Glee Club has occasionally performed the Fauré Requiem in collaboration with guest choirs.

Notes and references[edit | edit source]


  1. 1.0 1.1 Steinberg, 132–133. Quote's cited date is 1921.
  2. Letter from Fauré to the composer Maurice Emmanuel, quoted in Nectoux (1991), p. 116 (English translation by Roger Nichols). in the original French, Fauré's words were "Mon Requiem a été composé pour rien – pour le plaisir, si j'ose dire!" Some English versions translate "pour le plaisir" as "for fun": see Steinberg, p. 135
  3. 3.0 3.1 Duchen, p. 81
  4. Rutter, p. 3
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 Nectoux (1991), p. 116
  6. Nectoux (1991), p. 122
  7. Nectoux (1991), p. 514
  8. Orledge, p. 115
  9. Steinberg, p. 135
  10. Nectoux, pp. 117–120
  11. Park, 192–195.
  12. Duchen, p. 80
  13. Nectoux (1991), p. 117
  14. Shrock p. 431
  15. 15.0 15.1 15.2 15.3 Langham Smith. Richard, "Review – Requiem (1893 Version) by Gabriel Fauré, ed John Rutter", Music & Letters, Vol. 71, No. 1 (February 1990), pp. 143–144 Template:Subscription
  16. 16.0 16.1 16.2 16.3 Thomson, Andrew. "Review – Fauré's Requiem (1893 Version) ed Jean-Michel Nectoux; Roger Delage", The Musical Times, Vol. 136, No. 1834 (December 1995), pp. 670–671 Template:Subscription
  17. Duchen, p. 83
  18. Nectoux (1991), p. 370; and Duchen, p. 197
  19. Thomson; and Duchen, p. 125
  20. Ford pp. 299–302
  21. 21.0 21.1 21.2 21.3 Blyth, p. 217
  22. Gilbert, David. "Review of Requiem, Op. 48, pour soli, choeur et orchestre symphonique. Version de concert, 1900 by Gabriel Fauré, ed Jean-Michel Nectoux", Notes, Second Series, Vol. 57, No. 4 (June 2001), pp. 1018–1020 Template:Subscription
  23. Jones, p. 193
  24. Nectoux (1991), p. 119

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