Requiem (Ligeti)  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Requiem for soprano, mezzo-soprano, five-voice chorus, and orchestra is a four-movement work by György Ligeti in the same totally-chromatic style as Atmosphères.

The first movement, the Introitus, has a thin texture, but the Kyrie/Christe is a stunning, brilliant evocation of searing appeal. It is a massive (twenty-part choral) quasi-fugue where the counterpoint is re-thought in terms of the material, consisting of melismatic masses interpenetrating and alternating with complex skipping parts. It was a part of this movement that accompanied the enigmatic monolith scenes in Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. The last instance quoted in the movie (at Jupiter: Beyond the Infinite), this movement (interrupted by a loud radio-tone screech from the monolith) segues to the opening of Atmosphères. The penultimate movement, de Die Judicii Sequentia (Day of Judgement Sequence) is a colossal montage of contrasts: fff loud versus ppp soft, masses of sound versus soloists, etc. In the final movement, Lacrimosa (weeping), the chorus is muted, and only a reduced orchestra accompanies the plangent singing of the soloists. Ligeti confirmed that there are strong traces of his reaction to the Holocaust (in which his family was annihilated, except his mother, who survived Auschwitz) in this work.




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