Symphony presents French masterpieces
I often think of French music much like French cuisine: refined, sweet, subdued and completely decadent. This weekend's concerts serve up two French delicacies: the requiems of composers Gabriel Fauré and Maurice Duruflé. The concerts are the grand finale to the 11th annual Hawaii International Choral Festival and will be conducted by Karen Kennedy, former Honolulu Symphony Chorus director.
French Choral Masterpieces
Honolulu Symphony Orchestra performs
Place: Blaisdell Concert Hall
Time: 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday
Tickets: $21 to $74; 20 percent discount for students, military and seniors. Available at Ticketmaster outlets or call (877)750-4400
Information: 792-2000 weekdays; 524-0815 ext. 245 evenings; or visit www.honolulusymphony.com
Some might think that going to hear a performance of not one, but two requiems in a single evening might be tiresome. I beg to differ. This delicious pair will make for a luscious, varied, contemplative and absolutely thrilling evening.
The Latin text of a Requiem Mass, or "Mass for the Dead," is intended to honor those who have passed. For earlier composers such as Mozart, Berlioz and Verdi, the "Dies Irae" (Day of Wrath) movement became the primary musical event of the requiem. They enjoyed the opportunity to exploit this text for dramatic potential in its description of the Last Judgment.
Can you recall a movie scene in which you are led to believe that the most horrible event that could possibly happen is about to happen? Remember the bombastic but oddly familiar music playing during that scene? It's quite possibly a Dies Irae from one of these Requiems.
Unlike his predecessors, Fauré was not interested in depicting the torments of hell. He avoided overt theatricality in his music. A gentle man, he was more concerned that his requiem should provide comfort to the listener. He did not see death as a painful experience, but rather as a "joyous deliverance."
To connect his personal feelings with music, Fauré deviated from the standard requiem text. He practically disregarded the horrors of the Day of Judgment, omitting the inflammatory Dies Irae altogether. He added the lyrical "Pie Jesu," as well as the transcendent "In Paradisum," in which the sopranos, accompanied by the delicate harp, ascend as a chorus of angels into blissful oblivion.
Duruflé CLEARLY used Fauré's "Requiem" as a model for his own, composed more than 50 years later in 1947. Duruflé also retained much of the basic structure and mood of Fauré. But don't worry; we won't be serving the same delicacy twice. Listening to these two works is more like having rich chocolate fondue after a delectable lemon meringue. Only this time, you won't feel sick afterward.
While Duruflé's composition is lyrical, colorful and often meditative, it also contains more edge-of-your-seat drama than Fauré's, particularly in its spectacular "Sanctus" and its haunting "Domine Jesu Christe" and "Libera me" movements. When you hear Duruflé's extraordinary fusion of Gregorian melodies, church modes and sensuous 20th-century harmonies, you will be transported.
Sprinkled into our French banquet is a bit of haupia as we blend Hawaiian culture into this beautiful festival of choral music. As a complement to Fauré's "Requiem," we will be treated to the lovely visual of hula, performed by Lauren Kanoelani Chang (kumu) and young dancers and singers from the Na Leo Kuho'okahi Ensemble of the Hawaii Youth Opera Chorus.
This weekend, I'll gladly have a second helping.
Rachel Samet is director of choral activities at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. "Crescendo" appears in this section prior to each concert of the season to illuminate works to be performed. For questions, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.