Hector Berlioz


General Information

Berlioz's Requiem is perhaps one of the least religious mass for the dead ever written. Berlioz himself was not a deeply religious man, though his mother was an orthodox Roman Catholic. The Requiem is a sacred work, but it does not express any deep personal faith from Berlioz himself. The concept of Judgement Day is used in the work as a dramatic setting.

The work is set in Latin text for the Mass for the Dead. Berlioz was very liberal with the original text when he composed Requiem. For example, he freely shuffled text in several movements to suit the dramatic need of his music. The work was written for a massive orchestra and chorus. In its original performance, there were 400 singers and players total assembled, including 20 woodwinds, 12 horns, more than 100 strings, and 4 brass emsembles positioned at four corners of the concert stage.

Among all his works, Requiem apparently held a special place in Berlioz's heart. During the last few years of his life, Berlioz wrote to a friend: "If I were threatened with the destruction of the whole of my works save one, I should crave mercy for the Messe des morts."

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Jason C. Lee