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 by clicking on the icon below:

Video reproduced from YouTube / 1rumovies and image reproduced from

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