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Welcome to the Front Page, the digital cover of the Wayne Press.  Here we will share with you things that can't be captured in our newsletter--videos, music, color photographs--as well as articles that reflect on faith and life.  

 

The Berlioz Requiem

On April 20 & 21 at 7:30 pm, the Wayne Oratorio Society will sing Hector Berlioz's massive Requiem.  This will be the fourth time the choir has performed this work in its history.  When it was last performed in March of 2001, Rev. Ken Blazier (1933-2009), one of the choir's basses at that time, wrote wonderful program notes which describe the composer and his music better than any I've ever read...

Hector Berlioz (1803-69) has been called the leading musician of his age in France, even though people were polarized about the quality of his music.   As a composer, critic, and conductor, he struggled for the acceptance of new ideas.   He learned to play the flute and guitar, but he never studied the piano and could play only a few chords.   He was influenced by the symphonies of Beethoven, the actress Harriet Smithson whom he later married, and writings of Shakespeare, Goethe, and others.   His orchestral work, Symphonie fantastique, furthered his reputation as a composer of startling originality.   He was a passionate idealist with a leaping imagination, and he had violent emotional changes from enthusiasm to misery—personal traits which are reflected in his music.   He was a natural melodist and had a fondness for syncopation, uncommon in his time.

Berlioz left his most indelible mark as a superior orchestrator, having a unique sense of sound and an affinity for the dramatic, finding many ways to combine and contrast instruments, and effectively opening up a new world of musical sound for generations to come.   The conductor Felix Weingartner called Berlioz “the creator of the modern orchestra”—an amazing tribute to one who had learned about orchestration from textbooks, tutors, the instruments themselves, and the musical scores of other composers.               

Berlioz’s Requiem (Grande messe des morts) was first performed in the huge, domed St.-Louis des Invalides chapel on December 5, 1837—to both popular and critical approval.   It is a monumental work.   The original score calls for a tenor soloist, a chorus of 210, and an orchestra of 140 (with eight pairs of tympani), which is augmented by 50 players in four brass bands in the four corners of the hall.   Berlioz asked that, if space permitted, the chorus be doubled or tripled in number and that the orchestra be proportionately increased.   Nevertheless, Berlioz uses these vast musical forces sparingly and only to underscore moments of paralyzing terror or incredible wonder.   The most astounding use is in the “Tuba mirum,” where Berlioz’s vision of the Last Judgment is realized with overwhelming vividness and force, leaving no doubt that the music requires a building that can do justice to its sound.   The climax comes in the “Dies irae,” in which the timpani begin a fearsome roll that leads to the amazing sound of the chorus and orchestra.   Berlioz described this section as “overwhelming . . . of a horrifying grandeur.”   At the same time, Berlioz contrasts the massive sound with the soft restraint of the “Quid sum miser” (for men’s voices and a handful of instruments), the “Quaerens me” (for six-part a cappella choir), and the “Offertorium” (where the focus is on the orchestra, and the chorus is essentially confined to just two notes).   Although Berlioz was not a deeply religious man, his Requiem held a special place in his heart.   He wrote to a friend: “If I were threatened with the destruction of the whole of my works, I should crave mercy for the Grande messe des morts.”   May God use this monumental work tonight to help us experience anew his majesty and goodness!    

The ministry of the Wayne Oratorio Society is unique in that we are able through self-sustaining efforts, to offer both choir membership and admission to our concerts free of cost.  You are cordially invited to attend.  No tickets are required.  The choir numbers 185 singers, and the professional orchestra numbers 50 instrumentalists including four brass choirs.  Brian Meneely is the tenor soloist.  Doors open at about 6:30 pm.  

Posted by Jeff Fowler at 6:00 AM
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