Hesperus, the evening star

It should have been an icon, but – though it may seem something of a cultural mismatch (and a measure of my irretrievably muddled intellect(??)) – the stained glass of Chartres (it’s the South Transept you see above) and Rachmaninoff’s All Night Vigil (aka Vespers) seem to have an active stillness and a numinous quality […]

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 […]

Duparc

Fauré wasn’t the only gifted composer of mélodies of his generation; Henri Duparc (1848 – 1933) is also (justly) famous for his talents as a song composer. Duparc, like his younger Austrian contemporary, Hugo Wolf, only produced a handful of music before – again like Wolf – he succumbed to a mental illness that forced […]

Mélodie Maker

The English language, famed for the expansiveness of its vocabulary, is rather surprisingly coy when it comes to the idea of song. Sure, you can have all sorts of songs, but you generally need some type of qualifier to tell your listeners or readers whether you’re referring to a pop song, art song, folk song […]

The end of days

John Martin’s terrifying vision of the apocalypse has several musical equivalents. Apart from the many settings of the Requiem Mass’s Dies irae (think Berlioz, think Verdi), there are two famous musical Judgement Days that are the work of composers very much associated with Vienna: Mahler’s Resurrection Symphony (Symphony No. 2 in c) and Franz Schmidt’s […]