Requiem by The Concert Choir of Stetson University
Available on Apple Music/iTunes
Maurice Durufle's Requiem, Op. 9, was composed using the popular harmonic language in which Duruflé and his contemporaries were entrenched but completely constructed upon the use of Gregorian chant. This neo-medieval masterpiece is so well crafted that to place it anywhere other than among the canon of great choral masterworks would be an injustice to the genre. Duruflé chose virtually the same text from the Missa pro defunctis as did his older contemporary Gabriel Fauré - both settings focus on the meditative aspects of the requiem mass rather than the "day of wrath" atmosphere that consumed earlier requiems.
Duruflé's early musical education in Rouen, France, with Charles Tournemire and Louis Vierne is reflected in the Requiem. Tournemire's use of plainchant and rich modal harmonies and Vierne's concept of structure and proportion and use of the organ's capabilities are evident throughout the masterwork.
In 1947 while Duruflé was composing an organ suite based on Gregorian chant themes, he received a commission from Durand for a choral-orchestral requiem mass. This commission came in the wake of Fauré's "softer" Requiem. Duruflé successfully carried the torch for this new French perspective. The in-progress organ suite was incorporated into the commission, resulting in a unique combination: ‘ancient' melody, lush and modern harmonies, and a Requiem that truly represented the meaning of the title "Rest."
The Duruflé Requiem arouses the senses: its essence is mystical. Mysticism usually implies the protagonist's separation from society – some kind of "release of self" in a lonely journey seeking the divine. The achingly beautiful chants upon which the Duruflé is based are filled with the lonely cries of 6th- and 7th- century "mystics." The melodies are archaic and intended to be harmonically bare. Woven within the new, modally harmonic landscape of the Requiem, Duruflé captures and creates a mysterious aura, befitting the mystery of death.
The improvisatory nature of medieval music is resurrected in the Requiem. The accompaniment uses spontaneous rushing figures throughout a few of the movements, creating a feeling of endless wandering. Echoes reinforce an otherworldly atmosphere. This relationship can be observed between the organ and chorus and among the different vocal lines.
Maurice Duruflés oeuvre is small because he edited and re-edited his works until they achieved perfection in his eyes. His attention to detail can be seen in this intricate and mesmerizing piece. Duruflé's unwavering vision in the composition of his Requiem resulted in a masterful work, a feast for the soul.