Explained using the 5-4-3-2-1 Method

Duration: approx. 35 minutes
Genre: Requiem
Time of Creation: 1885–1887/1893/1900 (several revisions)
World Premiere: January 16, 1888 (Paris)

Table of Contents

Fauré's Requiem in 5 Sentences

In his Requiem, the French composer Gabriel Fauré dealt with the death of his father (1885) as well as the death of his mother (1887). What is striking is the positive, consoling mood of the work, which is unusual for a requiem – the focus is rather on redemption as well as the entrance into heaven instead of the horror of death. After a first (small) version premiered in Paris in 1888, Fauré steadily expanded the Requiem until it was performed in 1900 at the Paris World’s Fair with 5,000 people in the audience. The work was also played at Gabriel Fauré’s own funeral (1924). It became famous for the provocative statement of a Parisian vicar that Fauré’s Requiem was “unnecessary” because there was already enough musical literature.

Note: This work belongs to the Classical Music Top 100.

4 Highlights from Fauré's Requiem

Highlight 1: Introitus et Kyrie

The “pulling apart” at the very beginning of the work is remarkable. As the orchestra gradually slips away, the choir floats gently above. A wrestling with death? Who knows:

Highlight 2: Offertory

The offertory begins gently and somberly: bit by bit, the strings work their way up. As the movement progresses, the key turns from minor to major, so that the ending is as gentle as the beginning, but brighter:

Highlight 3: Pie Jesu

The Pie Jesu is perhaps the most famous movement in Fauré’s Requiem, and this is largely because Fauré leaves out a lot. This is the place where the dramatic Dies Irae would actually stand. Mozart’s and Verdi’s Requiems exemplify how much tinder there is in this part of the requiem mass. Fauré, however, only sets the last verse of the Dies Irae – the Pie Jesu – to music and thus paints a softer picture:

Highlight 4: In paradisum

This last part does not actually belong to the classical Requiem sequence. So while Fauré leaves something out in the Dies Irae, he adds something here:

3 Questions and Answers about Fauré's Requiem

Question 1: What is special about Fauré's Requiem?

Fauré’s Requiem has 3 special features: First, Fauré composes a positive, comforting mood; second, he shortens the Dies Irae; and third, he adds a section at the end.

Question 2: What are the names of the movements in Fauré's Requiem?

The movements in Fauré’s Requiem are called:

1) Introitus et Kyrie

2) Offertory (Domine Jesu Christe)

3) Sanctus

4) Pie Jesu

5) Agnus Dei

6) Responsorium (Libera me)

7) In paradisum

Question 3: How did Fauré's Requiem come into being?

Fauré first wrote a small version of his Requiem. After the premiere of this version, a vicar said that the work was “unnecessary” because there was already enough literature. However, Fauré steadily expanded his Requiem until it was heard at the Paris World’s Fair in 1900 in front of 5000 people.

2 Recommended Recordings of Fauré's Requiem

Recording 1: Radio Filharmonisch Orkest, James Gaffigan, Laurence Guillod, Thomas Tatzl (Live, 2017)

I especially appreciate the round sound of this recording with the Radio Filharmonisch Orkest:

Recording 2: Sinfonia Rotterdam, Conrad van Alphen, Ilse Eerens, Martijn Cornet (Live, 2015)

Conrad van Alphen produces a more direct, metallic sound with Sinfonia Rotterdam. This is clear from the very beginning:

1 Quote about Fauré's Requiem

It [my Requiem] is meek like myself, governed by human trust in eternity.

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