Berlioz Requiem


Special Event

August 5, 2012 at 3 p.m.
Berlioz Requiem at Davies Hall

There is no pre-concert lecture for this event.

  • Berlioz: Requiem
    Redwood Symphony
    Conducted by Eric Kujawsky
    Dan McInerney, tenor soloist
  • Mendelssohn: Hebrides Overture
    Eric Townell, Rochester Oratorio Society
  • Berlioz: Shepherd’s Farewell
    Robert Gurney, San Francisco Lyric Chorus
  • Strauss: Also Sprach Zarathustra, “Sunrise” (as in "2001, A Space Odyssey")
  • Boito: Mefistofele (final scene)
    Adrian Horn, Finger Lakes Choral Festival

Over 300 musicians and singers from a number of New York and San Francisco choruses have come together for this behemoth production. In addition to a huge onstage orchestra with an almost obscene percussion section, the concert hall will be surrounded by four brass bands, to add an awesome quadrophonic dimension to this spectacular sonic feast. The Grande Messe des Morts is seldom heard because of the great difficulty of assembling the great forces demanded by the composer. This has been accomplished through the cooperative efforts of the Finger Lakes Choral Festival of Greater Rochester (NY), Redwood Symphony and the San Francisco Lyric Chorus, in assembling singers and musicians for this performance.

About the music

Richard Strauss: Also Sprach Zarathustra, Fanfare/Introduction

Also know as “Sunrise” as heard in the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey. It was hard to resist the temptation to take advantage of our four brass bands to raise the roof with this short musical gem.

Felix Mendelssohn: Hebrides Overture

Also known as the Fingal’s Cave Overture, the work was inspired by a cavern known as Fingal’s Cave on Staffa, an island in the Hebrides archipelago located off the west coast of Scotland. On a “Grand Tour” of Europe, the 21-year-old composer was struck by its beauty and immediately jotted down a sketch reflecting his musical impression of the place.

Hector Berlioz: Shepherd’s Farewell from L’Enfance du Christ

The Childhood of Christ is an oratorio based on the flight of the Holy Family into Egypt. This selection is a farewell and wish for safe passage sung to the Christ Child by the shepherds as the Holy Family is about to depart.

Arrigo Boito: Mefistofele, Final Chorus

As the aging Faust approaches the end of his life, he dreams of a tranquil and fruitful world, free of evil. Mephistopheles becomes alarmed and urges Faust to come away with him, but his temptations are thwarted by the appearance of a heavenly choir. Faust, enraptured by the celestial vision, begs for deliverance from evil and is granted redemption as his dying wish. Mephistopheles acknowledges defeat and whistles derisively at the holy seraphim as they shower him with rose petals.

Hector Berlioz: Requiem (Grande Messe des Morts) Opus 5

In July 1837, Hector Berlioz was approached by the French Minister of the Interior to compose a Requiem Mass to be performed as part of a three-day event commemorating soldiers who died in the Revolution of 1830. But just days before the scheduled performance, the event was shortened over concerns that it might again revive revolutionary passions, so the premiere of the Requiem was canceled. Fortuitously, at least for the Requiem, in October of that year, the commander of a French force in Algeria, General Damrèmont, was mortally wounded in a siege on the city of Constantine. Berlioz was summoned by the Minister of War and asked to premiere the Requiem at a ceremony in December commemorating General Damrèmont and the soldiers killed in the siege.

The Requiem is an imposing work, with a score that calls for an orchestra of over 200 players, including four offstage brass bands and a chorus of 220 singers. But this is only the starting point. Berlioz suggests that these forces may be doubled or tripled if space permits. It is a work of stunning contrasts; gentle and urgent pleas for mercy, frightening visions of the apocalypse, majestic, glorious, and mysterious sonorities, and finally, an ethereal conclusion that captures the essence of eternity. In his memoirs Berlioz wrote, “If I were threatened with the destruction of the whole of my works save one, I should crave mercy for the Messe des morts.”

One unusual aspect of the work is that it is scored only for sopranos, tenors and basses. Since the reality is that most choruses have large alto sections, most performances require drawing up a complicated set of instructions for altos to follow that has them switching between the second soprano and first tenor parts. This performance features a new edition that adds an alto part to the score, relieving the altos of the tedious practice of entering these instructions in their scores.

Collaborating Organizations

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