Gabriel Fauré's requiem mass is arguably one of the most beautiful requiems ever written.
Many great composers have set music to the text of the Latin Mass for the Dead, since in the past it has been seen as one of THE things to do as part of the career of a composer. The reason for this could be that not only is the liturgy concerned with the matter of a soul passing from this earth to the life hereafter; but in purely poetical terms, the text itself is powerful and very beautiful. Indeed many composers, at the time of Mozart especially, wrote church music as much for their patrons and audiences as for God, they wrote for some grand occasion or another. Yet Fauré's requiem was not written for any such thing, the composer himself claimed that he wrote it "for nothing but the pleasure of it, if I dare say so", and boy am I glad that he did!
Fauré did not use the conventional group of texts for his requiem. He omits the Dies irae altogether; not wanting to dwell on hell and damnation, but rather putting the emphasis on the eternal rest of the departed soul.
The order of the movements is as follows:
1. Introit et Kyrie
4. Pie Jesu
5. Libera me
6. Agnus Dei
7. In paradisum
It is true that some of the themes have been somewhat overplayed over the years to become almost cliché, and that is such a great shame because people begin to stop appreciating just why they have become so popular in the first place. For example, before I truly knew this requiem, every time I heard the opening to the Agnus Dei it would remind me of Classic FM and I hated it because I had heard it so much. But what I didn't know, and what many people don't, is just what that movement then evolves into - a piece of excruciating beauty, with the melody descending through all these different keys and harmonies which just send shivers down my spine and gives me serious goosebumps.
I first came to love this requiem from singing it, as part of a SSA choir and then also in the original SATB format. Both versions are equally good, with the different variety of voices highlighting and making the most of different parts of the work. I recommend either version for the first time listener; it's all good stuff!
I have sung many different types of music by many different writers and composers, yet Fauré's requiem is, and always will be my favourite choral work. Any piece of music that has the never diminishing power to move me to tears every single time I hear it, must be something very special indeed.