Requiem for My Friend – Zbigniew Preisner – Part 2

Recently, I reported on the first part of a stunning musical piece by Zbigniew Preisner: Requiem for My Friend. Now I will cover the second half of this piece, which is called Life.

Just like the first part, Life, is also divided into nine movements, but the undertone of the music is different to the first part as the title suggest, although some movements are reminiscent of the Requiem part and one movement is even almost the same. The listener was guided through movements of the Requiem in the first part and is now guided through a different part in the circle of life and death, giving both parts a harmony and symbiosis.

The first movement, Preisner termed Meeting. It is meant to be a meeting point between the two worlds (life and death) and the music describes this rather well. It can almost be seen as a beginning, but the old question of the chicken and the egg obviously emerges once one thinks about this a little deeper.

The second movement is called Discovering the World and can be seen as the childhood. Do you remember when you were exploring the simplicities of life like colours, shapes, time, smells, seasons and so forth? Most of us do not remember but we have glimpses of what it was like to start to understand our surroundings. This is exactly what this music describes. Figuratively speaking, it a can also be transposed to adult life, when we get confronted with something entirely unknown …

The third movement of this part of the piece is called Love. A soprano starts humming and when I heard it for the first time I could really feel the word love through the music. More of a motherly love.

An extremely powerful movement, Kai kairos, follows suit. It has some incredibly powerful crescendi after a very slow start. Trumpets build up to a powerful movement that will make you tremble. The choir comes in slowly and very powerfully, interspersed by the alto. The movement really talks about time and can be seen as the period of living and working in life. Interestingly, the ancient Greeks had two words for the word time: chronos, which is a quantitative measure and kairos, which is a qualitative measure of time. The music asks the question of the quality of time, which has a connection to the metaphysics of quality discussed by Robert Pirsig.

Ascende huc is written in a march style and very different to the other movements. Again, Preisner uses a strong crescendo which builds up – faster than in the preceding movements. The piece creates a certain agitation and inquietude in the listener.

Veni et vidi is very similar to the preceding movement, again restless and effervescing. “He came and saw” – the words give a hint to the old Roman emperor Julius Ceasar, but without the victory (vici).

Who that was and who that is – Qui erat et qui est. Preisner spans the circle of life back to this question. Time becomes linear and obvioulsy we now find ourselves at a later stage of live. Who am I? That is the question I asked myself when I listened to this music.

Lacrimosa – Day of Tears. This beautiful movement is played again in this part of the piece; it was already present in the first part, the Requiem. The music is captivating and stunning and one cannot but wipe the tears from the eyes after listening to it.

Prayer is the last movement of this masterpiece and refelcts hope. A children’s voice chants and puts man’s destiny into the hands of a divine entity. Or maybe the child puts the hope into humanity and its powers? Interestingly, it is a child singing the prayer, showing how the circle of life is an endless and repeating scenario.

Kairos, and not Chronos – Time of quality and not time of quantity – that is the message that Preisner gave me with his Requiem for My Friend.

Video reproduced from YouTube / 1rumovies and image reproduced from

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About Sebastian Müller

Sebastian Müller was born and raised in Leipzig/Germany and moved to England as an adolescent. He is a trained research chemist and geneticist and is currently working as a postdoctoral researcher at the Institut Curie in Paris/ France working in cancer research. He obtained his Ph.D. from the University of Cambridge and is still actively involved at the university today. He is fluent in English, German and French and has many fortés and interests including science, philosophy, linguistics, history, competitive sports such as rowing, fitness and nutrition. He is a freelance writer also drawing from his experience as an author in peer-reviewed scientific journals. "I love writing and putting my thoughts down on paper. The written word to me is one of the most powerful ways of conveying thoughts and initiating discussions."
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