Last night the Los Angeles Master Chorale gave the premiere of Requiem by Christopher Rouse.  This is an excellent work.  It is beautiful.  It is emotional.  It is powerful.  It is dramatic, and it is peaceful.  This is a Requiem that sets a standard for composers of the future while holding its own against compositions of the past.

Jerry Bowles gave us the link to the video recorded by Grant Gershon as summarized the work for his Board; it’s worth hearing again, so here’s the link.  David Salvage reported Thursday on his interview with Rouse, so scroll down and re-read that.  Rouse provided notes on the work for inclusion in the program; those notes are here.  In addition, the program included these notes by Victoria Looseleaf.  I encourage you to read them all.

Instead of trying to paraphrase what others have written so well, let me tell you what impressed me, just a set of individual thoughts and feelings without trying to bridge among them.  Rouse gave us an exhilarating range of colors, tones and emotions.  He found an emotional core within each section of the requiem, and he used his choral forces (and his percussion) to help the audience feel the content.  He included his audience in the feelings and beliefs so that we were not merely sitting there listening to a ritual.  I was grateful for the pause after the emotional power of the “Lacrymosa”.  The demands on the chorus are huge; the work demands extremely good singers, and it provides compensation for the work.  We could see the expressions on the faces of the members of the Master Chorale (101 last night) and the Los Angeles Children’s Chorus (57, I think).  What focus and concentration.  What joy, and pleasure, and relief as they stood there and had the waves of applause surround them.  Sanford Sylvan was the excellent baritone soloist, handling the range of pitch Rouse asked of him while letting us understand the words. While the music Rouse gave him was less inherently interesting to me than his choral work, he was used to remind us of loss and the need for requiem.  I really liked Rouse’s ending, in which the threads of the Everyman soloist and the choruses intertwine and, for the first time, the soloist sings the church verse while the chorus becomes the person dealing with loss and recovery. Gershon did a great job as conductor.  Oh, I wish that last night’s performance was recorded. (There is word that KUSC-FM will broadcast the performance, and when I find out when the broadcast will be, I’ll submit a posting so that you can listen.) 

Some final comments.  If I were in New York, I’d make sure I have tickets for Thursday’s premiere of Rouse’s Wolf Rounds at Carnegie Hall.  I don’t have enough Rouse recordings on my iPod; how could I forget what a good composer he is?  If Requiem doesn’t win Christopher Rouse his second Pulitzer, there is one great piece out there still waiting to be heard.  I thank Soli Deo Gloria and John Nelson for commissioning this work.

The Master Chorale and Grant Gershon really did a good job in communicating that this would be an important evening of music.

8 Responses to “Last Night in L.A.: The Rouse “Requiem””
  1. Gene Halaburt says:

    It is a shame that it took four years after the “Requiem” was completed for it to be performed. Can Naxos be queried/pressured to consider releasing (preferably) a studio recording of the work or the live recording of the premier? To whom can one write at Naxos?
    Thanks.

  2. […] “This is a Requiem that sets a standard for composers of the future while holding its own against compositions of the past,” was the statement made on the contemporary classical music community website Sequenza 21. Click here to read the Sequenza 21 review. […]

  3. […] “This is a Requiem that sets a standard for composers of the future while holding its own against compositions of the past,” was the statement made on the contemporary classical music community website Sequenza 21. Click here to read the Sequenza 21 review. […]

  4. Nicholas Schutz says:

    Rouse himself stated that he didn’t want to make the piece specifically about the 9/11 victims because there were many other people who also died on 9/11, completely unrelated to the attacks, as well as people who died on 9/10 and 9/12 and every other day in history. He basically said it’s a requiem for everyone who has ever died or lost someone.

    And yes, I agree that the LAMC’s performance of it was amazing. I told a few people that I was sure I would be telling my grandchildren in 50 years that I was at the premiere of Rouse’s Requiem.

  5. While I don’t want to challenge the composer’s stated intent, I seem to recall that Rouse has written a lot of pieces where death is a theme – Symphony No. 2 comes to mind (in memory of Stephen Albert), but I know that there are others (a quick bit of research tells me that the third movement of the Trombone Concerto was dedicated to the memory of Leonard Bernstein).

    A Requiem seems like a very natural fit, and I don’t think that the choice is just circumstantial.

  6. Mark Berry says:

    Rouse is on WNYC’s “Soundcheck” right now. The show should be up later at WNYC.org.

    There was talk of Naxos possibly releasing Rouse’s Requiem but I don’t know what came of that.

  7. Nathan Brock says:

    Re Jay’s comment:
    Apparently not. There was an article in the LA Times about this. He was commissioned to write a Requiem because of his and the commissioner’s love of the Berlioz Requiem; he told the interviewer that he would have written anything he was asked to write, and they happened to choose the Requiem. In fact, he wrote the piece some time ago – in 2001 and 2002 – and made a deliberate choice not to make the piece a 9/11 piece, despite the fact that those events occurred while he was writing the piece (and while he was in NYC).

  8. Jay Batzner says:

    I’ll admit I’ve done zero research into this question on my own, but, do we know if there is a personal reason that Rouse wrote a Reqiuem? Is it dedicated to the memory of someone?

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