Fauré's Requiem: A tender farewell

Who can blame a composer for wanting to supply music for the Last Trumpet? Mozart, Giuseppe Verdi, Hector Berlioz – when each of them wrote his “Requiem,” based on the Catholic Mass for the Dead, he put all the firepower he could muster into the stanzas describing Judgment Day.

Not Gabriel Fauré. He simply skipped the Latin text's main barrage of fire and brimstone when he wrote his “Requiem,” which the Charlotte Symphony and Oratorio Singers of Charlotte perform this weekend. (Details, Page 12).

In Fauré's first version of the piece, he didn't even use trumpets, much less tell them to cut loose.

He wasn't interested in putting the fear of God in his listeners. Instead, he spun out glowing, mellifluous tones that give the departed a tender farewell.

“It has been said that my ‘Requiem' does not express the fear of death,” Fauré once wrote. “Someone has even called it a lullaby of death. But it is thus that I see death: as a happy deliverance, an aspiration toward happiness above.”

There's no telling what he thought was the path to that happiness above. Fauré, like Verdi, was an agnostic. Musing on his “Requiem” in another letter, he said that he intended it to convey “a very human feeling of faith in eternal rest.”

Obviously, dogma wasn't for him. Maybe it was enough for him to let his music give us a glimpse of heaven.