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The Saint-Saens Requiem should be far more well known. It is such a great piece of music and doesn't outstay its welcome unlike the Verdi, Berlioz, Dvorak and others imo. It is a crucial link between the grand rather operatic Requiem of Berlioz and the inwards felt and consoling Requiem by Saint-Saens favourite pupil Faure. Therefore it holds a very important position in French sacred music.

My favourite highlights, although the whole Requiem is great:

Requiem-Kyrie: Great start with a string figure somewhat reminiscent of Mozarts Requiem. It sounds like the strings are crying. Great vocal build-up for the soloists and the choir. More in the tradition of Berlioz and Mozart. Stunningly orchestrated.

Dies Irae: This is a Dies Irae which sounds as imposing as the Berlioz or Verdi Dies Irae. Great climax for Organ and orchestra

Oro supplex: Once again great string moments and incredibly poignant singing here with a celestial finish.

Hostias and Benedictus: Beautiful consoling music which seems to foreshadow Faure quite a bit. Here i think is the turning point of French Requiem music to something much more gentle.

Agnus Dei: This is easily the greatest part of the whole work. Probably one of the greatest Agnus Dei ever written. The climax is gorgeous.

There is a doctoral thesis about the S-S Requiem out there which can be read via Internet and which illuminates these points further i think.
The best recording imo is by the London Symphony and Geoffrey Simon.

Other favourites are of course Faure, Durufle and Mozart. But also Schnittke, Takemitsus Requiem for Strings (does it count??) and the short but beautiful Puccini Requiem.
 

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Another interesting version of Clemens non Papa's Requiem. I have a third version of this on CD in my collection. I don't think this is the very best work of Clemens non Papa. Why doesn't anyone record the complete works of Jacques Clement?

 

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Fauré and Duruflé. I don't include Mozart's since it has that "incomplete" feeling, and I've never been a big fan of the Verdi. If it counts, I also love Arvo Pärt's Cantus in memoriam Benjamin Britten.
 

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Besides the glorius Verdi requiem this one:



Rebecca Dale: REQUIEM For My Mother
 

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Wonderful performance of the Berlioz Requiem that re-creates the circumstances of the premiere (huge, reverbant church) extremely well. All the instrument effects that can sound strange and primitive in the dry acoustics of a concert hall make a completely natural impression here. Superb chorus, soloist and conducting too. Truly astonishing.


And how about a purely instrumental requiem?

 

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The Ligeti and Berlioz are quite interesting. Ligeti's is haunting and frightening in how it unfolds gradually - really quite eerie, and very effective imo. Berlioz is completely mad and original. The Lacrymosa is something else, in how he's offset the rhythmic stresses. I really like the beginning of the offertorio, although I have issues with how it moves on from there.

Another piece I'd like to mention is Oliver Knussen's Requiem: Songs for Sue, which has the word Requiem in the title, but isn't really laid out like a traditional requiem mass.
 
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