for two sopranos, mixed choir and orchestra
Duration: approx. 35 minutes
A requiem is about death and the dead. A serious subject. No one knows shat happens after death. We may believe. We may speculate. But no living human being can say.
In spite of – or perhaps thanks to – the gravity of the subject, I found this an inspiring piece to compose. I enjoyed working on it.
There are numerous traditional Latin texts to choose among, concerning despair and conviction, wrath and release. Plenty of drama there. I also wove contemporary and classical Swedish poetry into my requiem.
Many composers have written requiems across the ages. Writing one today requires a dialogue with them.
– How did you choose your texts? What form did you give your Kyrie (Lord, have mercy.)? Is it a prayer or a cry for help?
– How did you compose the Sanctus (Holy, holy)? I made it a whisper. A passing breeze from the Lord.
– Then there’s valley of the shadow of death? Did you use the text: “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death” or a different one? In my Requiem the choir meanders through beautiful thirds while the orchestra attacks from the shadows, dissonant. The result is most expressive.
– And what about Libera me (“Deliver me, O Lord, from eternal death, on that fearful day when the heavens are moved and the earth”)? There’s drama for you! I have the choir calling loudly and forcefully, and the percussionist letting loose with the tam-tam and the thunder sheet.
– In one movement, a soprano soloist sings in Swedish (my native tongue, my personal angle) of heaven. Thinking about the kingdom of heaven, she sings so beautifully, with such painful grade that suddenly her voice cracks, shifting from beauty to despair. I see this as my Lacrymosa. It was actually the first part of the requiem I composed. Ages ago. This piece matured slowly.
– Incidentally, a personal question. What do you think? Is it necessary to be a believer, I mean a firm one hundred percent believer, to compose a requiem? Or is it possible to use the music to kind of explore the truth of all those things people say about God, death, and the afterlife?
Music doesn’t lie. Music is true.
– There’s something else I want to tell you: I couldn’t talk about death alone. I had to put birth in there, too. And so my requiem opens with these lines from a poem by Kerstin Ekman:
The newborn grasps
seeks with mouth,
and eyes, trusts.
The trust is there
with neither wings nor branches
lets itself fall
is the gravity within us
Ultimately, a requiem is also about us, the living, as much as about the dead. Don’t you agree?
Karin Rehnqvist, September 2008