‘The human soul dreams of being cradled like a child’ – Faure’s Requiem offers a radiant and tender vision of heaven, comforting audiences far beyond the composer’s original Parisian congregation.
A Requiem is a mass for the dead; the name comes from the first words of the text, ‘Requiem aeternam dona eis Domine’ (Rest eternal grant unto them, O Lord). Unlike the regular Mass, which has a fixed set of texts for which a composer is expected to write music, the Requiem is more flexible, and different composers have chosen different parts of the text for their musical settings. Fauré’s selection deliberately chooses the gentler texts, and omits most of the references to judgment and damnation.
Though he spent the first 25 years of his professional career as a church organist, Fauré was not a particularly religious man, and seems to have had little sympathy with the forms and rituals of formal Christian worship. (He was dismissed from his first job for turning up one Sunday morning still in evening wear, from the night before.) According to his son, though, Fauré believed firmly in ‘a supreme leniency that could only be divine’, in which ‘the human soul dreams of being cradled like a child’.
Fauré’s musical language blends the clarity and poise of the great 18th-century French keyboard masters – Couperin, Rameau, Lully and so forth — with a forward-looking approach to harmony and musical colour that anticipates the Impressionism of Debussy and Ravel through its gentle dissonances and sometimes unexpected chords.
The Australian choral group Cantillation and the Sinfonia Australis, under the direction of Antony Walker, perform the 1893 chamber orchestra version of Gabriel Fauré's Requiem, Op. 48, along with two lesser known choral works, the Cantique de Jean Racine, Op. 11, and La Naissance de Vénus, Op. 29.
Soloists joining Cantillation are Sara Macliver and Teddy Tahu Rhodes.