Giuseppe Verdi - Messa da Requiem

Μεγαλοπρεπής αίθουσα συναυλιών με πολυάριθμα θεωρεία
Although Requiem was a religious work, it was presented more in concert halls than in churches.

Giuseppe Verdi wrote the famous Requiem in honour of his close friend, Alessandro Manzoni, the great Italian poet, writer, and humanist, who died in 1873. It is a powerful fusion of intense drama and passion, with moments of reverent simplicity. Verdi conducted the first performance at St. Mark's Church in Milan on May 22, 1874, the first anniversary of Manzoni's death.

Revolutionary composition

Verdi's Requiem has been revolutionary in two respects: First, because while the traditional requiem is a prayer of the living for the dead, Verdi's work was a function as much for the living as for the dead. As Verdi would expect, it's a dramatic, theatrical play.

Written for four solo voices (soprano, mezzo-soprano, tenor and bass) with full choir and orchestra, it follows the typical Roman Catholic Latin mass for the dead. The "libretto" certainly comes from the dramatic and moving text of the Bible.

The serene, reverent principle predisposes little to what comes next. The anthem of the 13th century Dies irae, presents in otherworldly detail a vision of the "Day of Wrath" and the "Last Crisis" and shapes most of the traditional requiem function. With tremendous dramatic power, Verdi organizes his music with drums, brass and rushing strings. It's music loud and passionate, which evokes an eerie and revealing feeling.

In contrast, in the middle section, Domine Jesu Christe, Sanctus, Agnus Dei and Lux aeterna are not so dramatic, but rather serve to present the functional text with simplicity and beauty. Lux aeterna, for example, is imbued with a deeply gloomy mood that is implyed to the wonderful Gregorian chant.

Then, with a virtuoso climax, the listener is once again pushed into emotional terror with Libera me. Here, the lonely, angelic voice of the soprano, accompanied by drowned and hasty violins, utters a prayer for liberation from the torments of hell. Once again, the dramatic Dies irae is repeated and the service ends with a beautiful fugue, in which the soprano returns to re-whisper her call for liberation.