March 2012

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Requiem aeternum

st stephen’s rochester row

Clemens non Papa Crux fidelis
Manchicourt Missa Reges terrae
Duruflé Requiem

Jacob Clemens non Papa (d.1555) was a Flemish Renaissance composer, prolific in many of the current styles.  Little is know of his early life.  He was succentor at the cathedral at Bruges and also lived and worked in Ypres and Leiden. Primarily a composer of sacred music (including over 200 motets), he was one of the chief representatives of the generation between Josquin and Palestrina and Orlandus Lassus.  Crux fidelis (Faithful Cross above all other) is part of a larger work, Pange lingua, by Saint Venantius Fortunatus (c530-c609); it was written it for a procession that brought a part of the True Cross to Queen Radegunde in 570. This hymn is used on Good Friday during the Adoration of the Cross and in the Liturgy of the Hours during Holy Week and on feasts of the Cross.

Pierre de Manchicourt (c.1510-1564) was a Renaissance composer of the Franco-Flemish school.  Little is known of his early life other than that he was a choirboy at Arras in 1525; later he held a succession of posts in Arras, Tours and Tournai before moving to Spain to be Master of the Capilla Flamenca at the court of Philip II, where he stayed for the remainder of his life.  As with many composers of the period he predominantly wrote masses, motets and chansons. He learned his craft in northern Europe, assisting the diffusion of the style by travelling to, composing and performing in other regions. The movement of many skilled composers out of Flanders and northern France created what was one of the first truly international styles since the original diffusion of Gregorian chant during the reign of Charlemagne.  The Missa Reges terrae is a parody mass of the composer’s motet of the same name: it consists of a Kyrie, an extended Sanctus and Benedictus, and a three-movement Agnus Dei.

Maurice Duruflé (1902-1986) was a chorister at Rouen Cathedral School, where he also studied piano and organ.  He graduated from the Paris Conservatoire with first prizes in organ, harmony, piano accompaniment and composition.  In 1927 he became assistant organist to Vierne at Notre Dame and two years later organist at St Etienne du Mont.  He gave the premiere of Poulenc’s Organ Concerto (advising the composer on registration) and also became professor of harmony at the Conservatoire.  Duruflé was a perfectionist – he was highly critical of his own composition and published only a handful of works.

His most famous work, the Requiem, was commissioned in 1947 by its publisher, Durand; it is written in memory of the composer’s father.  It is for SATB choir, with thematic material nearly all from the Gregorian Mass for the Dead.  There are nine movements. Like many requiems, Duruflé’s omits the Gradual and the Tract; the Dies irae text, perhaps the most famous portion of the Requiem mass, is also not set (although the first words of the Dies irae are included in the Libera me).  Duruflé’s omission of this text and inclusion of others (Pie Jesu, Libera me, In paradisum, from the burial service, mirroring Fauré), makes the composition calmer and more meditative than some other settings.  In the full score, the fifth movement, Pie Jesu, has the only solo for the mezzo-soprano; the baritone soloist has parts in the third and penultimate movements.  Duruflé left indications in the score that, for the baritone soloist at least, it was preferable to have the choir sing the solos instead.