English Dances Opus 27 (3/4) Malcolm Arnold
Verdi's choral masterpiece and one of the most enduring Requiems ever - find out what went into this landmark of the romantic era.
Requiems come in all shapes and sizes. Some, like Fauré's, are serene, hardly so much as raising their grief-stricken voices. Others, like Mozart’s, are melancholic and rousing by turn, snapshots of the composer’s music at the time, more than any great comment on the theme of mortality and death. Verdi's, however, fits into a category that’s almost a one-off, with Berlioz’s Requiem possibly the only other major companion work. It’s in the 'blockbuster' category.
Verdi's Requiem, composed in 1874, is a huge, great wind-machine of a thing, often labelled an opera in all but name. Verdi had written a 'Libera me' as a part of what was meant to be a joint Requiem by him and several other composers, in honour of Rossini. When all that fell through, his Libera me was sent back to him. In his sixties and prompted by the death of his friend, the writer Manzoni, he set to work on surrounding it with its other constituent parts. It was a huge hit. In performance, it can be impressive simply to see the eight trumpets, often lined up round the stage, but when they play along-side a chorus marked ffff (that’s four times as loud as 'loud') well, it's simply staggering.