The Choral work for 2020 will be Camille Saint-Saëns Messe de Requiem.
THE 23RD Armidale Music Foundation Annual Choral and Orchestral Weekend again provides an opportunity for musicians from NSW and further afield to rehearse and perform a large scale masterpiece, under the guidance of one of Australia’s foremost choral tutors.
SAINT-SAËNS’ MESSE DE REQUIEM (OP. 54)
WRITTEN IN 1878 over the space of just eight days, Saint-Saëns produced the Messe de Requiem in memory of his friend and patron, Albert Libon, who had died twelve months earlier.
In the spring of 1877, following twenty years as organist for L’église Sainte-Marie-Madeleine in Paris, Saint-Saëns resigned his prestigious post after being reprimanded for his “bold playing.” Confident that he could earn a living as a composer and interpreter, he embarked on a series of concert tours. It was upon returning to Paris that he learned of the death of Libon, who had bequeathed the sum of 100,000 francs to Saint-Saëns on the condition that he compose a Requiem on the first anniversary of his death. Libon, an ardent admirer of the composer’s work, had made the provision to enable Saint-Saëns the freedom to devote all his time to composing. Although the will’s condition was ultimately withdrawn, Saint- Saëns fulfilled it in gratitude to his friend.
Musically, the Requiem is unusual since it relies less on dynamics and more on its massive instrumentation to create a heightened sense of expression. Jacques Bonnaure (2010) writes: “This unjustly neglected Requiem is perhaps the most sensitive, imaginative, and perfect work by the composer, who finds here,
more than ever before, a classical balance between form and expression, innovation and tradition, sophisticated compositional style and immediate effect.” But the requirement for such a large orchestra (including two organs, four harps, and a four-fold contingent of winds) made performances of the work difficult until an orchestral reduction became available that maintained the richness of Saint-Saëns’ original score.
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