Choral Tradition

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Music of Vivaldi and Faure

The Choir of St. Colman Church will be joined by the choir of The Presbyterian Church of Hillsboro, Ohio (Roger Smith, director) and instrumentalists from the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music to perform two of the great works of the choral art. On a weekend which contains both a great and ancient Christian feast day (All Saints, November 1) and the annual memorial day of All Souls (November 2), it seems fitting to pair these two towering works.

The Vivaldi ‘Gloria’ is an elaborate and extended setting of the oldest Christian hymn, “Gloria in excelsis Deo” (“Glory be to God on high”). For choir, soloists, and instruments, it is one of the first, probably best known, and certainly one of the most beloved choral creations based on these words. It is written in Vivaldi’s trademark ebullient style while still capturing the many nuances of the extended hymn.

Gabriel Faure’s famous ‘Requiem’ was written as a setting of an actual Requiem Mass for the Dead. Many famous requiem masses had been written by earlier composers (Mozart, Berlioz and Verdi, among many others), but their character was nearly always one of fire and brimstone, with a focus on the ‘Day of Wrath’. By contrast, Faure wrote the first of what might be called ‘the lullaby requiems’ which emphasized mourning and restfulness, with only a nod to ‘the wrath of God’. Also in contrast to the rhythmic emphasis of the Vivaldi piece, the Faure uses soaring and gorgeous melodies and luscious harmonies to make its point. It is easily one of the loveliest choral works ever put to pen and a favorite of both participating choirs.