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Gabriel Faure's Unusual, Uplifting Requiem

French composer Gabriel Faure (1845-1924)

The Faure Requiem – with full orchestra, choir, and soloists - premiered on July 12, 1900. As WRTI’s Susan Lewis reports, it was not a typical requiem, nor was it the first incarnation of the work. 

Radio script:

Susan Lewis: The Faure Requiem, known to us today, had its first performance at a World’s Fair, the Paris Exposition of 1900. Also, its not the original version.

French conductor Alain Altinoglu, who has conducted the work with The Philadelphia Orchestra and in many other settings, says Faure first wrote a shorter requiem for smaller orchestra, which premiered in 1888.

Alain Altinoglu: Many years later, his editor said, you should write a symphony version. He was not so convinced in the beginning, but he did write this big version... And then this version had such success. Faure was very surprised. Suddenly it was played in Bruxelles, Geneva, Marseille, Paris...everwhere.

SL: Faure intended it to be a different kind of requiem from what other composers had created.

AA: The Verdi requiem, for example, it's very dramatic...Berlioz or Mozart. For Faure, death was not something painful. Death was happy. He explains that dying was happy, because it was closer to God. You go in the heaven, you know. 

SL: The full Faure Requiem was first performed in the United States at a student concert at the Curtis Institute of Music in 1931.

Listen to more of Susan's interview with conductor Alain Altinoglu, who stepped in to lead the Philadelphia Orchestra in a 2014 program featuring the Faure Requiem.

Susan writes and produces stories about music and the arts. She’s host and producer of WRTI’s TIME IN online interview series, and contributes weekly intermission interviews for The Philadelphia Orchestra in Concert series. She’s also been a regular host of WRTI’s Live from the Performance Studio sessions.