by Giuseppe Verdi
is a musical setting of the Roman Catholic
(called the Requiem
from the first word of the text, which begins Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine,
meaning, "Grant them eternal rest, O Lord"—see the entry at "Dies Irae
"). It was completed to mark the first anniversary of the death of Alessandro Manzoni
, an Italian
poet and novelist much admired by Verdi. The piece is also sometimes referred to as the Manzoni Requiem
. A typical performance takes around 85-90 minutes.
The Requiem is scored for a large orchestra consisting of three flutes
(third flute doubling on piccolo
), two oboes
, two clarinets
, four bassoons
, four French horns
, eight trumpets
(four of which play from offstage during the Tuba mirum
), three trombones
, one ophicleide
(an obsolete instrument usually replaced by a tuba
in modern performances), timpani
, bass drum
, and strings
There is also a quartet of solo singers (soprano, mezzo-soprano, tenor and bass), as well as a double chorus.
When Gioacchino Rossini
died in 1868, Verdi suggested that a number of Italian composers should collaborate on a Requiem
in Rossini's honor, and began the effort by submitting a "Libera me." During the next year a Messa per Rossini
was compiled by 13 composers (of whom the only one well known today is Verdi himself). The premiere was scheduled for the first anniversary of Rossini's death in 1869, but the performance was cancelled and the piece fell into oblivion until 1988
, when Helmuth Rilling
premiered the complete Requiem for Rossini in Stuttgart
In the meantime, Verdi kept toying with his "Libera me," frustrated that the combined commemoration of Rossini's life would not be performed in his lifetime.
In May 1873, the Italian writer and humanist Alessandro Manzoni, whom Verdi had admired all his adult life and met in 1868, died. Upon hearing of his death, Verdi resolved to complete a Requiem—this time entirely of his own writing—for Manzoni. Verdi travelled to Paris in June, where he commenced work on the Requiem, giving it the form we know today. It included a revised version of the "Libera me" originally composed for Rossini. The Requiem was first performed the following May in the church of San Marco in Milan, on the first anniversary of Manzoni's death.
Throughout the work, Verdi uses vigorous rhythms, sublime melodies, and dramatic contrasts—much as he did in his operas—to express the powerful emotions engendered by the text. The terrifying (and instantly recognizable) "Dies Irae" that introduces the traditional sequence of the Latin
funeral rite is repeated throughout for a sense of unity, which allows Verdi to explore the feelings of loss and sorrow as well as the human desire for forgiveness and mercy found in the intervening movements of the Requiem
surround the stage to produce an inescapable call to Judgement in the "Tuba mirum" (the resulting combination of brass and choral quadruple-fortissimo markings resulting in some of the loudest unamplified music ever written), and the almost oppressive atmosphere of the "Rex tremendae" creates a sense of unworthiness before the King of Tremendous Majesty. Yet the well-known tenor
solo "Ingemisco" radiates hope for the sinner who asks for the Lord's mercy. Verdi also recycles and reworks the duet "Qui me rendra ce mort? Ô funèbres abîmes!", from Act IV of Don Carlos
, in the beautiful "Lachrymosa" which ends this sequence.
The joyful "Sanctus" (a complicated eight-part fugue scored for double chorus) begins with a brassy fanfare to announce him "who comes in the name of the Lord" and leads into an angelic "Agnus Dei" sung by the female soloists with the chorus. Finally the "Libera me," the oldest music by Verdi in the Requiem, interrupts. Here the soprano cries out, begging, "Free me, Lord, from eternal death ... when you will come to judge the world by fire."
Structure of the work
- Introit – Kyrie (chorus, soloists)
- Dies irae (chorus)
- Tuba mirum (chorus)
- Mors stupebit (bass)
- Liber scriptus (mezzo-soprano, chorus)
- Quid sum miser (soprano, mezzo-soprano, tenor)
- Rex tremendae (soloists, chorus)
- Recordare (soprano, mezzo-soprano)
- Ingemisco (tenor)
- Confutatis (bass, chorus)
- Lacrimosa (soloists, chorus)
- Offertory (soloists):
- Domine Jesu Christe
- Sanctus (double chorus)
- Agnus Dei (soprano, mezzo-soprano, chorus)
- Communion (mezzo-soprano, tenor, bass)
- Libera me (soprano, chorus):
- Libera me
- Dies irae
- Requiem aeternam
- Libera me
Australian Opera and Ballet Orchestra, conductor S. Young . NAxos
- Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, Robert Shaw conducting. Telarc - #80152 (1990).
- Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, Georg Solti conducting. RCA - #61403 (1993, re-release of a 1977 Grammy-winning recording - the Dies Irae section from the same recording was first released on Compact Disc by RCA in 1990 for a special Chicago Symphony centennial box set).
- Zagrebačka Filharmonija. Conductor: Lovro pl. Matačić. Recorded at the 30th Dubrovnik Summer festival, July 13, 1979 in the old Franciscan Church. 2 CD-set issued by the Zagrebačka Filharmonija, # 37593.
- Philadelphia Orchestra, Conductor Eugene Ormandy. Columbia/Oddyssey cassette YT 35230, 1978.
- London Symphony Orchestra, Leonard Bernstein conducting. Sony - #47639
- Orchestre Revolutionnaire et Romantique with the Monteverdi Choir, John Eliot Gardiner conducting. Polygram Records - #442142 (1995).
- Orchestra Sinfonica di Milano Giuseppe Verdi with Coro Sinfonico di Milano Giuseppe Verdi, Riccardo Chailly conducting. Sacred Works, includes Libera Me from Messa per Rossini (1869 version). Decca - #467280-2 (2001).
- Vienna Philharmonic and Vienna State Opera Chorus, Georg Solti conducting, featuring Luciano Pavarotti, Joan Sutherland, Marilyn Horne and Martti Talvela. Polygram Records - #411944 (1990).
- Kirov Orchestra and Chorus, Valery Gergiev conducting, featuring Renée Fleming, Olga Borodina, Andrea Bocelli, Ildebrando D'Arcangelo. Decca - (2000).
- Berlin Philharmonic, Claudio Abbado conducting, featuring Angela Gheorghiu, Daniela Barcellona, Roberto Alagna, Julian Konstantinov. EMI - #57168 (2001)
- La Scala, Milan, Victor de Sabata conducting, live performance featuring Renata Tebaldi, 1951
- La Scala, Milan, Herbert von Karajan conducting, featuring Leontyne Price, Luciano Pavarotti, Fiorenza Cossotto, Nicolai Ghiaurov - DVD (1967)
- Hungarian State Opera Orchestra and Chorus, Pier Giorgio Morandi conducting. Naxos Records. 1996
- Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra and Mendelssohn Choir of Pittsburgh, under the direction of Robert Page. Mariss Jansons as conductor. 1997
- Orchestra del Teatro alla Scala with Coro del Teatro alla Scala, Riccardo Muti conducting, Cheryl Studer soprano, Dolora Zajic mezzosoprano, Luciano Pavarotti tenore, Samuel Ramey basso, EMI #49392 (1987).
- Wiener Philharmoniker, Chorus of the Vienna State Opera, Claudio Abbado conducting, Cheryl Studer soprano, Marjana Lipovsek mezzosoprano, José Carreras tenore, Ruggero Raimondi basso, DGG #435 884-2 (1993).
- NBC Symphony Orchestra, Arturo Toscanini conducting, live broadcast performance, January 1951, RCA Victor
- Wiener Philharmoniker and Singverein der Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde, Fritz Reiner conducting, featuring Leontyne Price (soprano); Rosalind Elias (mezzo); Jussi Björling (tenor); Giorgio Tozzi (bass). June 1960 recording, Decca Legends Series #467 119-2.