I just finished writing "Death in classical music: making friends with the unfriendly." The thought occurs to ask this erudite and candid board: which works in this category move you?
(I got some superb answers a while back when I presented the same question re Obscure Composers.)
Happy Thanksgiving to you. JS
double post, sorry
I'm really partial to the Libera Me from Faure's Requiem
I kind of think of a lot of Faure's late output in terms of death, and a sort of peaceful acceptance of it. The string quartet and piano quintets are great pieces. Late Brahms is really autumnal in that same kind of way.
The Poulenc Oboe Sonata was written in memory of Prokofiev, and the violin sonata was dedicated to the memory of the poet Garcia Lorca, and then the last movement was changed in memory of Ginette Neveu - I find those to be very moving.
Chopin's Sonata No. 2 (Op. 35), of course.
...and Mozart's Requiem.
Death and the maiden.
Shostakovich Chamber symphony op. 110 (rewritten 8. Quartett) - among other above mentioned gems of course.
Let me first give a list of some which DON'T move me:
Franz Liszt: Totentanz
Saint-Seans: Danse Macabre
Elgar: Dream of Gerontius
Prokofiev: Death of Tybalt
Strauss: Vier letzte Lieder
Lutoslawski: Funeral Music.
The Polka from Schwanda the Bagpiper is fun, but it doesn't MOVE me that much.
Ones which do (sometimes):
Bach (supremely): Es ist vollbracht
Schubert Op 1 (If you don't know which that is, I leave you to look it up - You might be as surprised as I was to find it as Op 1!)
Brahms: Schicksalslied;Herzlich tut mich verlangen Prelude (second version); Vier ernste Gesänge
Verdi: Dies Irae
Purcell (slightly): Dido's Lament
Mendelssohn: 6th Organ Sonata Last Movement
Handel: I Know That My Redeemer Liveth
Walton (slightly): Death of Falstaff
Beethoven (slightly): Elegischer Gesang
I agree about the Faure String Quartet.
In no particular order,
Elgar: "Nimrod" from the Enigma Variations
Victoria: Missa pro Defunctis
Bach: St Matthew Passion "O Haupt voll Blut und Wunden"
- Brahms, Ein deutsches Requiem, esp. the 2nd movement ("Denn alles Fleisch, es ist wie Gras")
- Purcell, Funeral Sentences (esp. Thou knowest Lord, the secrets of my heart)
- Purcell, Hear my prayer
- Mozart, Requiem
- Handel, Funeral March from "Saul"
- Bach BWV 56 "Komm o Tod, du Schlafes Bruder"
- Bach, O Haupt voll Blut und Wunden
- Lo jardi de la mort (Death's Garden), a song by catalan composer Bernat Vivancos, sung by Nuria Rial. I found this little gem a while ago on YouTube and both text and are hauntingly beautiful (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mbt9fw6bs8c)
Schumann Piano Quintet the second movement.
Alban Berg Violin Concerto
Allegri Miserere - I'm going to leave a note to have them play it at my funeral, with a warning that things are going to get churchy.
"They say such nice things about people at their funerals that it makes me sad that I'm going to miss mine by just a few days." -- Garrison Keillor
Mahler 6th. Very few things are as moving as that last movement. Utterly hopeless and gloomy, despite all the beautiful and valiant musical "fights."
Another vote for Dido's Lament.
Bach A minor concerto slow movement feels very elegiac to me.
Another vote for the Mozart Requiem, especially the end of the Confutatis. I always feel I need a 5 minute break after this - fortunately there's a natural break after the Lacrymosa (also mentioned above).
And another vote for Bach Es Ist Vollbracht. Listen to Fischer-Dieskau sing it, if you can bear it....
Not explicitly about death, but in the same territory for me - the slow movement of Schubert's string quintet, and the first movement of Beethoven's quartet Op131.
At my own funeral I want a Champagne toast with the accompaniment of Beethoven, Symphony 7, Allegretto, 2nd movement.
For me, the first half represents death
followed by a literally, heart felt pulse and plea for the living to carry on and celebrate, not despair.
The music speaks to us all personally. This is my truth.
Gorecki - Symphony nr 3
Arvo Pärt - Litany, Lamentation
Anyone heard the obligato in Es ist Vollbracht played with adequate expression, or does everybody else try to "not overdramatize it"? For instance, I think it needs a fast bow and fast vibrato on the second top "A", to make it sound agonized.
Back in the '60s I turned up to a quartet performance at the Edinburgh Festival to be told that the cellist had died overnight but that they would play the concert as a tribute with Rostropovich sitting in.
They concluded the programme with Death and the Maiden.
I was sitting beside Bernard Levin, probably the most famous journalist of his generation and well known as a music buff. He was in floods of tears throughout.
Quite a moving experience!
(Can anyone recall which quartet this would have been? My memory has let me down...)
One that definitely pushed my tear layer up a notch was the final scene of Verdi's Un Ballo in Maschera (A Masked Ball). It's right near the end. The strings steal in very quietly. The dying Riccardo forgives Renato, his confidante turned assassin, starting with: "Ella è pura. In braccio a morte, te lo giuro, Iddio m'ascolta." (She [your wife] is pure [or "innocent"]. In the arm of death, as God is my witness, I swear it before you.") Translation is mine.
I didn't have this reaction when I first studied the musical drama on my own and subsequently saw it in performance; but some years later, when I listened to it again, this part really got to me.
schubert's stabat mater
arvo part - fur alina
John - the only obbligato on either of my recordings of Es Ist Vollbracht is for oboe. Are we thinking of the same piece - from cantata 159?
The Fischer-Dieskau recording features the legendary BPO oboist Lothar Koch - replete with full, rich tone and vibrato, and molto espressivo - but still sounding absolutely appropriate for Bach, free of any kind of exaggeration, distortion etc. Almost as eloquent as F-D himself.
There is Elegy for Solo viola by Stravinski.
Here is a version played by Dino Asciolla
It is not nearly as thorny as some other works by the composer and is his only work for solo viola.
Ravel Pavane for a Dead Princess
Britten War Requiem,
especially "Strange meeting" the duet between the two dead soldiers--
"I am the enemy you killed, my friend" always chills and moves deeply. Wilfred Owen was an amazing poet of WW1, and Britten's music meets his words with power
(among all the others already multiply-mentioned)
Wagner: Prelude & Liebestod.
Respighi: Pines of Rome
Schubert's Adagio from his String Quintet in C! That really gets me most of the time.
Sibelius' 2nd movement of the violin concerto is also good.
I happen to be a fan of the end of Wagner's Gotterdammerung
I am always impressed by the erudition, and willingness to share ideas on this board. Hats off to everyone who replied. I have known, loved, and cataloged many of these, but did miss a few, so sincere thanks.
Peter, I'm just now listening to Es Ist Vollbracht from Cantata 159 for the very first time ever - The one I was referring to is from the Johannes Passion, which at the moment moves me more than the other I have just heard.
Their both being good might have something to do with their both being by a certain composer ...
The second movement of Death and the Maiden. The ending of that movement. It's so visceral and vivid to me, it gives me chills.
Echoing others; Mozart's Requiem. Can't listen to it w/o crying. (Okay, I admit, part of that is because of the movie AMADEUS. Okay, more admission: a very, very big part of that is b/c of the movie.)
And then there's Franz Schmidt's Symphony No. 4 in C-major. Just tears at my heart. Again, due to backstory. Just before he composed it, his daughter and only child died in childbirth. This was his requiem to her.
Hebrew Melody by Joseph Achron Op. 33.
Tshaikowsky 6. symphony.
Both pieces are so magical and have a background about death.
John Rokos - all is explained! I'll check out the St John version next time I'm on Youtube. Agree totally about the composer - Bach 'did' melancholy very affectingly in so many pieces, yet I think that no-one since has celebrated life as he did in so many pieces, just by adding 3 trumpets and drums (and a chorus, at times).
Regarding Götterdämmerung (Twilight of the Gods), the final installment of Wagner's Ring tetralogy, mentioned above:
This is another part that really gets to me -- soon after the passage known as Siegfried's Funeral March and just before Brünnhilde's Immolation Scene. Gutrune has the lines:
Ach Jammer! Wie jäh nun weiss ich's, Brünnhild' war die Traute, die durch den Trank er vergass!
(Ah, sorrow! How clearly I now see: Brünnhilde was his [Siegfried's] true love, whom the [drugged] drink made him forget!)
Translation is mine.
Shostakovich: String Quartet no. 15 - First Movement. I have the Rubio Quartet version and it is amazing. The opening violin melody, to me, is hauntingly beautiful. It almost sounds like a distant plea for help as one is dying. It is truly beautiful.
Eric Whitacre: Alleluia. It's just voices, and voices only. The only lyric is "Alleluia" and it is a very moving piece.
Barber: Adagio for Strings. It's just a beautiful piece. It's a tear jerker.
Shosty: Violin Concerto no.1, mvt. 3. This is my favorite piece of music ever written. One theme repeats throughout the orchestra and the soloist, and the violin part is very intense, very moving, and you can feel the hopelessness and the fear in the entire moving, the cadenza is like a beast emerging from the depths, it may seem like just notes, but it is powerful and violent, and I really like that type of music.
Others: Mahler Symphony no. 2, 5, 8, and 9
Shostakovich Symphony no. 5, 10, and 11
Elgar: Sospiri - Adagio for Strings, Organ, and Harp
Bach: Chaconne in D minor for Solo Violin
Liszt: Concert Etude no. 3, Un Sospiro
Vitali: Chaconne in G minor (Heifetz + Organ version is the best)
and so many others.
The slow movement of Beethoven's quartet op.135.
Peter, not on subject, but since you mentioned Bach on the other extreme, I think the greatest expression of joyful triumph in all music is his prelude to In Dulce Jubilo (Fantasia) - especially the point where the organ goes full blast on the phrase beginning on the dominant.
little bit off topic, but just wanted to show my appreciation of finding a way into some Wagner music coming from this thread.
My name being Sigurd, which is the nordic equivalent of Siegfried, who apparently is a character from 'Sigurd Fafnersbane' in norse mythology, of couse i was interested in hearing his funeral march.
That led me on to Tannhäuser overture which i find absolutely amazing:
Edit: A little piece from La forza del destino opera - 'pace pace mio dio'
From wikipedia: 'Leonora prays that she may find'
peace in death
Oh and this little gem:
Die Erlkönig sung by Anna sofie von otter. Amazing performance!
I'm so relieved - I was worried there for a minute that you'd written an entire book on the "Death" of Classical music! Whew!
I've become very partial to Ysaye's "Obsession" Sonata No. 2, with its repeated references to the Dies Irae. I especially like the second-movement "Malinconia," I really find it one of the most moving pieces in the violin lit, especially solo violin.
Yes, the Ysaye, particularly as played by Shumsky.
- Elgar Sospiri (op. 70)
- Nielsen symphony 2 "four temperaments" III- Melancholic
- Bruckner Symphony no. 8
- Barber Adagio for Strings
Franz Schmidt, "Das Buch mit sieben Siegeln". Not only death, but even a whole apocalypse.
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November 25, 2015 at 07:37 PM · Lachrymosa from the Mozart Requiem.
On a personal note, the Largo from Dvorak's New World Symphony, but that has more to do with associations than with its musical content--I played the theme from it at my grandfather's funeral and years later at my father's.