Giuseppe Verdi—Requiem

Verdi Requiem 2

Giuseppe Verdi. Requiem. Leipzig: C.F. Peters, ca. 1950. pp. 33-34.

Verdi Requiem 3

Lilly Library M5.B9 V468

            Verdi’s Requiem premiered in Milan in 1874. The text, in Latin, is from the traditional church Mass for the Dead. By the nineteenth century, Requiems were also ideal material for concert music. Prior to Verdi’s monumental work, both Mozart and Berlioz (to name two notable examples) composed them. The music on display is from the Tuba Mirum, (“Wondrous Trumpet”), a part of the Dies Irae (“Day of Wrath”) sequence from Verdi’s Requiem. Here, he uses the brass section to herald the Last Judgment, an intense event to which he attaches much fear and contrition. For this section, the text pulls material from several biblical passages—including the idea of the trumpet as herald from I Corinthians 15 and the severity of final judgment from Revelation 20.

            The sample to the right is from a Lilly Library score from the collection of esteemed conductor Fritz Busch. His markings can be seen throughout the work. Notable here are his annotations that instruct certain brass parts to be performed offstage, creating an echo-like “surround sound” fanfare. These notations serve as a reminder that musical compositions were not limited to a communication between composer, publisher, and audience. Performers, and their personal interpretation of notated music, have a large impact on what audiences hear, much like with theater or readings from a text.