Requiem: Requiescat in pace?

Unusually, it’s the pace (peace) word that’s predominant in Fauré’s setting of the Requiem, the Mass for the Dead.

Many composers – Mozart, Berlioz, Verdi, to name but the most famous – seem to have taken a certain grisly and theatrical delight in portraying the terrors of the Day of Judgement as depicted in the Dies irae (Day of Wrath) section of the service:

And who can blame them? The sequence; with its trumpets of death, the wicked being consigned to hell fire and and the good eternally redeemed; gives an epic opportunity for composers to enjoy themselves making a lot of noise while letting their choral and orchestral hair down.

Not so Fauré: Fauré’s work is typically quiet and restrained — he omits most of the Dies irae — focusing on the peace and rest of what follows the turbulence of our lives.

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