Requiem for My Friend – Zbigniew Preisner – Part 1

Music is a form of art that has always fascinated people. Some of the most stunning classical music pieces are masses in the setting of the Requiem, which is a musical form of art transcending life and death. Zbigniew Preisner, who is very famous for writing the score to the film trilogy “The Three Colours”, composed a musical endeavour that will capture your thoughts and feelings. I first heard of this wonderful work when the “Lacrymosa” was played in the “Tree of Life”, a film with Brad Pit starring, and I will try to describe to you this magnificent Requiem, which will take your breath away …

Requiem for My Friend is is composed of two parts. I will lead you through the first part today and in a few days through the second part.

The first part – Requiem – consists of nine movements and is scored for soprano, organ, two countertenors, tenor, bass, string quintet and percussion.

The first movement, Officium, is reminiscent of old orthodox church music and is written in largo, i.e. very slow moving. It has some beautiful harmonies and puts the listener into a state of awe and into a mode of reflection.

The second movement, Kyrie eleison, which translates from old Greek into English as “Lord have mercy”, starts with an organ introduction and has a crescendo that builds up slowly. It puts the listener almost into a state of hypnosis. When the organ introduction ceases, the prayer slowly transcends and helps the listener reflect. When I listened to it, it made me think about my impact on the world and the consequences.

The third movement, the Dies irae (The wrath of God) again starts with an organ introduction an slowly builds up to a powerful chant by a soprano and then a choir. It is not as daunting as the equivalent movements of Mozart’s or Verdi’s Requiems, but does chill the bones a bit.

The next movement, the Offertorium, is a bit more lamenting and has a beautiful string introduction. A beautiful soprano sings the offertorium and almost sounds divine.

The fifth movement is the Sanctus and has a short organ introduction until a soprano and tenor sing in an ongoing crescendo “Sanctus, sanctus, hosanna in excelsis”. The words are repeated over and over again and the movement reaches a wonderful climax and suddenly stops. The listener is kept in awe.

The Agnus Dei (Lamb of God) starts with a slow string introduction and the words are sung by a soprano which is dominating the movement. The movement is calming and makes the listener more relaxed after the preceding heavier movements. It is much shorter than the other parts.

The next movement captures the words Lux aeterna very well. One feels that this music could be a guide for perpetual light and rest. To my ears, Preisner describes this very well with this music.

The next movement is a very powerful piece of music. The Lacrimosa (tears) catches the sentiment of the words really well. This music makes me stun and for that reason it was chosen in the “creation” scene of the film “Tree of Life” with Brad Pitt. This music is not for weak nerves!

The last movement of the first part of this masterpiece is the Epitathium. It summarises the struggle of death and prepares the listener to the next part: “Life”. The organ sounds almost lamenting in this movement, as if it possesses a soul … no singing, just a long lasting organ play rounding up this first part of the Requiem for My Friend.

This music has made me reflect a lot and I hope you enjoyed the journey I described here. I will soon report on the second part of this musical piece. You can buy the album on Amazon.uk by clicking on the icon below:

Video reproduced from YouTube / 1rumovies and image reproduced from www.musiquedefilm.be

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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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