The walls were all hung with black, but, instead of the white trimmings that usually set off that funereal upholstery, there was an enormous stave of music with the notes of the DIES IRAE
, many times repeated.
One thing is certain,--that there is a mustering among the masses, the world over; and there is a dies irae
coming on, sooner or later.
After a stuttering repeated low F on the timpani, the Dies irae
fairly screeches into life, the thirds of the Introitus turned into clusters and its "open" fifths into more harshly interlocking fourths.
Whether your sensitivities are scorched by descending into Mozart's Dies Irae
(Day of Wrath) or tingled by the rising power of Stravinksy's brittle pagan incantations,one thing is as certain as life and death: between them, Liverpool's Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and Choir can cater for all tastes.
Most are user-friendly, detailed, and informative presentations of the overall plan of a show or a useful arrangement of related musical motives, such as the assemblage of examples that display the ubiquitous presence of the Dies irae
in Sweeney Todd (Ex.
It was certainly not a typical 'youth choir' performance, but an often beautiful one - the Agnus Dei, Domine Jesu Christe (Benedict Nelson the fine baritone soloist) and ascending-to-heaven In Paradisum were particularly memorable - with, in the Sanctus and 'Dies illa, dies irae
,' moments of thrilling drama.
In some cases, however, this may cause difficulties, for instance if one is looking for items that discuss composers' use of the Dies irae
or B-A-C-H motives.
And after a shaky Requiem and Kyrie - those hushed opening phrases proving cruelly taxing for the chorus - the Dies Irae
really ignited, with offstage trumpets behind the audience and the full ensemble letting fly with hairraising bravura.
The Dies Irae
was helter-skelter after a brisk Kyrie Eleison, there was little sense of stature and awe in Rex Tremendae, and, despite the efforts of a fine quartet of soloists, the emotion in Recordare was sadly lacking.
If the march to the scaffold was slightly muted then the vividly realized Witches' Sabbath more than compensated, with the bells tolling the Dies Irae
sounding ominously from a distance as they ought.
It's tricky to bring off but the BPO's strings responded well to the challenge, with a strong foundation provided by cellos and basses, and a genuinely uncanny moment when the Dies Irae
But of course with things like the Dies Irae
and the Lacrymosa especially, I think you can't help but be moved at the similarity of mood, if you like.