From the melancholy grandeur of the opening chorus, through the stormy terrors of ‘Dies Irae’ (Day of Wrath) to the sublime minor-key consolations of ‘Lacrimosa’ (Mournful be the day), Mozart’s Requiem expresses more profoundly than almost any other choral work the bitter anger, personal grief, and spiritual hopes which accompany the loss of a loved one. Legend has it that Mozart even suspected that he was writing if for his own funeral and indeed, death claimed him before he could complete it. This epic masterpiece of loss and consolation is accompanied by the same composer’s energetic and anguished Symphony No 40, a work of enormous emotional and dramatic power, written just three years earlier than the Requiem.
The concert also includes a new fifteen minute piece by the Society’s Musical Director, Janet Wheeler, who has said about the work, “This piece brings together a number of different elements and inspirations linked to the idea of ‘the harmony of the spheres’ including both stars and planets. Digitised sounds converted from the light output of stars have shown us that in one sense stars really do sing; each star has its own signature pitch, subject to various kinds of tonal modulation through its varying intensity. At the same time, each star’s life stage in its development is reflected in the degree of hiss present in the auditory signal, which appear in the opening as textures and effects inspired by these digitised sounds. This leads into a choral setting of the Song of the Stars – a Passamaquoddy poem in Algonquin, collected in Canada in 1822 by Charles Leland. I have set this to material derived from a 12th century Latin hymn Naturalis Concordia vocum cum planetis, the opening of which eventually emerges in its original plainsong guise. The music features a decorated cosmic scale in which each of the heavenly bodies then known, including the moon and the sun, is given a different note of the scale. The wonderful Orlando Gibbons hymn tune and the associated 19th century words by John Chadwick Eternal Ruler of the Ceaseless Round make their appearance in the latter part of the piece, with elements of variation technique. My use of planetary inspiration and the Renaissance tune is in homage both to Holst and to his great friend Vaughan Williams, in the centenary year of Thaxted Festival.”