THE MISSING 'DIES IRAE' FROM FAURÉ'S REQUIEM (2016)
Performed by Plus Minus Ensemble, Conducted by Mark Knoop
Gabriel Fauré's 'Requiem' is perhaps one of the best loved pieces of late Romantic music of all time, with its lush harmonies and sweeping melodic lines, but unusually is missing the famed 'Dies Irae' section of the mass which instead replaced with a 'Pie Jesu' section. Whilst this face is often dismissed as aesthetic choice, very few know of the deceit and treachery behind the true reasoning behind this missing section.
Gabriel Fauré (b.1845) was born into a highly cultured but not particularly musical family in Pamiers in the south of France. Around the age of 9 years old, he started to show extraordinary musical talent and was sent to the Paris Conservatoire to study piano. During his time away, the young prodigy became morose, melancholy and infatuated with darkness. Spurred on at the age of 16 by Mozart's 'Requiem', Fauré started to compose the 'Dies Irae' for his own setting of the Requiem Mass. Upon showing the fnished movement to his teacher Camille Saint-Saëns in 1961, he found it rejected, ridiculed and physically spat on by his mentor who described it as “the work of the Devil himself”. Driven to despair by Saint-Saëns' reaction, the teenage Fauré threw away the complex sketches of the score and the prototypes of new technology needed in order to perform the piece. Saint-Saëns travelled later that year to Italy where he met his colleague Giuseppe Verdi, and over a few too many glasses of wine showed the Italian composer the 'Dies Irae' written by Fauré. The story goes that Verdi seized the scores and in a ft of delirium, staggered straight to his music room where he became obsessed by the work of the young student composer.
Upon hearing of the overwhelmingly successful performance of Verdi's 'Requiem' in 1869, Fauré sent away for a score and was shocked and appalled to discover that the 'Dies Irae' section of the Italian's masterpiece was strikingly similar to the one he had composed almost a decade prior (albeit written in a far more conservative style). Fauré wrote to Verdi on multiple occasions during his lifetime but upon not receiving a reply and when learning that the composer was becoming elderly and frail, he decided to complete the Requiem that he had started as a boy and include the original 'Dies Irae' alongside a public statement that would proclaim him as the true composer of the piece. Word got around the composing circles of Europe about what Fauré was working on, and in the winter of 1886 he received a letter that simply read “Please don't, I beg you. G.V.”. The composer was taken aback by the simple sorrowfulness of the message and, out of respect for Verdi's legacy, decided to replace his frantic 'Dies Irae' with a much gentler 'Pie Jesu'.
After I completed my undergraduate in 2014, I travelled to the home of Verdi in Milan on a residency working in diferent composers homes around Italy. Whilst playing the piano of Verdi which no one has been allowed to play since his death, but I have very little respect), I discovered that the E above middle C made a rattling sound when played. Upon opening the instruments lid, I discovered a small piece of paper with coordinates written upon it between the strings. Curiosity then got the better of me and I followed the coordinates to a small feld 5 miles outside of the city. In the middle of the feld was a rock with G.V. carved into it. In my excitement of realising that there might be a dark secret of Verdi's, I dug underneath the rock and unearthed a box which contained the manuscript of Fauré's 'Dies Irae', drawings for prototype voice changing devices, and a note from the Italian composer confessing the plagiarism. As the old manuscript started to crumble in my hands, I knew I had stumbled on an important part of musical history and set about quickly arranging the piece for a small ensemble before the paper inevitably deteriorated. I fnd it fascinating to see how the music created by the young Fauré has predicted even the most unpredictable of genres and technologies and I hope that you can enjoy his work in its unedited and unapologetic form.