Practically always and almost in all civilisations, music has accompanied the mystery of death. Particularly in the West, this tradition had signaled the form of Requiem. Numerous composers have embarked upon this Mass of the inexpressible pain of the loss of the loving ones, by leaving each and every one his own vision of the beyond life, by giving life to the most powerful, poignant, sublime expression of fear, long for a lost life, unfathomable desperation or the ultimate hope.
This genre of honouring the departed has gave birth to a great number of masterworks throughout the centuries, showing that the mystery of death can constantly and profoundly inspire the imagination of the gifted composers.
From early Renaissance to the end of last century, we have experienced numerous works on this subject, not necessarily always using the term or even the form "Requiem". Bach wrote his superb "Actus Tragicus" ( a Cantata) and the poignant Motet "O jesu Christ, mein Lebens' Licht". Purcell his Funeral Music for Queen Mary, Lully his poignantly vehement "Miserere", De Lalande his dark "De Profundis" or "Die Trauermusik" by Johan Ludwig Bach.
So, let's see how many we may collect in this forum along with great recordings of them. To start with, I present one (or two for the most influential 18th and 19th centuries) illustrious specimen from every century:
- Ocheghem : Requiem. Probably, the very first of the genre and an early sombre masterpiece.
- Richafort : Requiem (around 1520). More meditative than strict and sombre. Powerful expression of the pain of loss.
- Victoria : Requiem (1605). The reference of the Spanish genius in the genre.
- Bach : Actus Tragicus (1727). A masterpiece beyond any description.
- Mozart : Requiem (1791). The Requiem par excellence. The greatest of them all: the most refined and, at the same time, the most powerful in expression, while brilliantly composed.
- Berlioz : Grand messe des morts (1837). The "Requiem" of reference. One of the most powerful and majestic, but also austere and plain Masses of the Dead.
- Brahms : Ein deutsches Requiem (1868). A great meditative, strict and very austere masterpiece and a very German too.
- Britten : War Requiem (1962). Profoundly spiritual and humane at the same time, a masterpiece of our times.
- Greif : Requiem (1999). The latest (to my knowledge) masterpiece of the past century that marked quite a few great works in the choral music and in this genre as well.
Your imput is welcome.