Dies illa, dies irae

April 15, 2007

I have just been rereading my own blog (how sad!) and in clicking on the Fauré Requiem link, I find an error on that webpage, which claims that Fauré omitted the Dies Irae from his work. That is not so; he did include a setting of those words, but not as a separate movement. He brings them into the Libera me section, and very rousing it is, too. I do not agree that the prevailing mood of the music is as unassuming, peaceful and serene as that writer claims; at least, I didn’t find it so while listening to it the other day. I love the Pie Jesu, which obviously tries to be ethereal and serene, and indeed sang it once as a solo when I was a schoolgirl, (in a church where the organ accompaniment had an appreciable delay in reaching my ears because of its distance from where I was standing), but the movement that stirs me the most now is that Libera me, beginning with the highly romantic baritone solo, yearning and beseeching: Deliver me, O Lord … on that fearful day… The chorus that butts in, nudging this voice aside with stabbing chords from the organ and swelling panic in the orchestra’s strings, is a threatening one, a warning of catastrophe.

Catastrophe comes into every life at one time or another, never mind the afterlife, and according to her memoirs, Adrienne Clarkson, our ex Governor General—whether she be a person or a corporation, as the provocative Mr Wozney would have it (though the content of the GG’s book seems to indicate that she’s far more than a mere corporation and as much of a “real non-artificial person” [sic] as the Queen)— has had her share of traumatic suffering. But her appreciation of other people’s fortitude has helped her to surmount it. I was intrigued to find a chapter in Heart Matters that describes an elderly lady, a Mme Antoinette Vincens de Bonstetten of Swiss ancestry, whom Adrienne Clarkson met in Paris in the 1960s.

…The prevailing idea that [Antoinette] had, that she was not important, was not from a lack of self-esteem but rather was a desire to efface herself, to take out of existence her personality and any effect she had on others, and therefore, I think, to make pain no longer exist.
It was the first time in my life that I realized that you could take yourself out of pain by systematically refusing to participate, or by leaving yourself out. This was different from denial of yourself because you were saying, as Antoinette did, that you existed but you didn’t want anybody to know it.

Anyway, I’m encouraging Chris to sing Fauré’s Libera me solo in a piano-accompanied version, so that we can learn this together. We had another go at it tonight.

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