Monday, November 12, 2012

A Canadian Requiem

A fascinating story in the Globe and Mail reveals that serious music can still be written for serious purpose. Afghanistan: Requiem for a Generation was commissioned by the Calgary Symphony and performed last Saturday. The article focuses on the Canadian poet who wrote the libretto, Suzanne Steele. Out of a fourteen paragraph story the composer, Jeffrey Ryan, isn't even mentioned until the tenth paragraph. Isn't this terribly odd? I know classical music is in rough shape these days, with plummeting sales, orchestras locked-out or on strike and other signs of an art form just disappearing off the culture's radar screen. But isn't the composer the key creative element in a requiem? Of course, in the setting of the traditional text to the Catholic Mass, such as Beethoven's Missa Solemnis, one expects no special mention of the libretto because it is liturgical.

The closest relative to this new requiem is probably Benjamin Britten's War Requiem of 1962. It uses the traditional Latin texts interspersed with poems by Wilfred Owen. However, we do not refer to it as the Wilfred Owen War Requiem with music by Benjamin Britten. Here is an excerpt:

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