Saturday, February 19, 2011

Antonin Dvorak – Requiem Op. 89 – Sawallisch, Czech Philharmonic Orchestra







Dvorak accepted to compose this Requiem for Birmingham in 1891. It is a central work in his musical life and that's why it took him a full year to do it. It can be clearly divided in two parts. The first part evokes death and our miserable lot on earth waiting for death, that death that means complete destruction and utter annihilation : dust, ashes, decay and the confrontation to our lord, ourAntonin Dvorak Statue, Jan Palach Square, Prague. supreme judge. The second part evokes the salvation that comes with Christ and his own sacrifice. The first part is as dark as dark can be, even if here and there we can find a moment of light which is more the light of God, our universal judge than any light coming from the world, from humanity. But the second part is a clear and luminous music that elevates us little by little to the certainty that no desolation, no death, no promised punishment is without a possibility not to escape it but to dominate and transcend it, thanks to Christ. But the whole Requiem is a metaphor and the details that show it are heavily used in the music and the singing of the second part. We find a reference to the devouring lion, the lions of Daniel of course that mean the escape from enslavement, from deportation to Babylonia. We find a reference to the Tartars we must escape from, the Tartars being the oppressors of our freedom that is crushed under the soles of foreign invaders. It is a direct allusion to the dream Dvorak feeds deep in his soul, a dream of freedom for his country, for Prag, for all peoples in the world, a dream he will find partly realized in America later on, a dream that will hence become true, a true inspiration. And of course a heavy, ever-present allusion to Abraham, that biblical figure that is ready to sacrifice even what is dearest to him if God orders it, in order to be free in God, free on earth, free in mind and spirit. Abraham is the inspirer of this dream of freedom for all peoples through the dire straits of necessary submission to suffering and painful fate. We reach here, in the text, in the music, in the singing, in every aspect of this Requiem the old mythological belief in fate, in the fact that any man, any society has a fate to fulfill, but in the most modern meaning we can find in the nineteenth century, that of the national liberation of every people, of every culture, of every people that necessarily has their own specific culture, of which music is the very heart, that this liberation can only come through a long process of struggling for identity and then for independence. This Requiem is far more than a Requiem. It is a manifesto about the future of the world. God and Christ become our leaders in our hope for freedom, freedom after death in the traditional meaning, freedom from oppression in a more modern meaning, salvation on earth for those whose freedom is suppressed by the powerful oppressors. We understand then what Dvorak will find in America, in the vast landscapes of this virgin continent, in the remnants of Indian culture and in the deep hope for freedom expressed in the negro spirituals. Dvorak is all contained in his Requiem. And this is essentially expressed with notes, with sung words, with variations and tones. He is a man of his time, of our modern times. The final victory of B flat major over B flat minor.



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