The world of music pays homage to Hector Berlioz, 150 years after his death. Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia inaugurates the 2019/2020 Season with a grand performance of the Grande Messe des Morts (Requiem. op. 5) by the Orchestra and Chorus of Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, conducted by Antonio Pappano and featuring Mexican tenor Javier Camarena and the Chorus from Naples' Teatro San Carlo.
The Grande Messe des Morts came into being in connection with a commission by the French government. In 1837, at the request of Minister of the Interior De Gasparin, an advocate of the return of religious themes in music and a supporter of young composers, Berlioz, then 34, prepared to compose a Requiem in honour of general Mortier, killed in 1835 during an attack on Louis Philippe. However, although Berlioz completed the work over the course of just six months, his clients, having decided to suspend the general's memorial celebrations, reconsidered the commission. This change of plans did not deter the composer from promoting the work and insisting that it was actually dedicated to the memory of another hero, General Dameront, who had fallen in Algeria.
A monumental opera due to the excellence of all the means put into play and for the originality of the inspiration that pervades it, the Grande Messe may be compared to a Gothic cathedral, in which the imposing nature of the structure combines with the delicacy of each element that enhances the whole. The score is surprising, full of nuanced sound, rich and shimmering with unusual timbric reflections caused by the combination and spatial deployment of the woodwinds creating three-dimensional sound effects, and by the experimental use of percussion. Ever since its public debut in Paris, in the Chapel of Saint Louis des Invalides on 05 December 1837, the Requiem has had an explosive effect on audiences, who have remained fascinated by the power of this composition.