for Mezzo-soprano, Chamber Ensemble and Tape

Richard Wernick

Duration: 00:18:00
Publisher: Theodore Presser Company
Print Status: Rental

Quick Overview

The "Kaddish-Requiem" was commissioned by the Philadelphia Composers Forum in 1971. The first movement was substantially revised a year later.

In the late ?60s and early ?70s, protest, frustration, dismay, and anger at the United States? military involvement in Indochina had reached its height, and was being expressed in countless ways. The "Kaddish-Requiem" was composed during this time. The work is divided into three movements, played without pause. The first, "Alles Fleisch?", although entirely instrumental, draws upon the line of scripture ?Denn alles Fleisch es ist wie Gras? (?For all flesh is as the grass?), which Brahms set in the second movement of the "German Requiem". In a time when flesh and grass can be recklessly devastated by napalm and defoliants, the simplicity and beauty of the biblical image becomes tinged with a cruel and bizarre cynicism. This is reflected musically by the use of brief and disjointedly recomposed portions of the Brahms as an ironic and nagging commentary throughout the first movment.

The second movement consists of a tape collage of several versions of the Hebrew (actually Aramaic) Kaddish. Although traditionally used as the Jewish prayer for the dead, this curious doxology contains no reference to death whatever, but extols with its lilting rhythms and cadences the power and glory of the almighty. The Kaddish sections are set off by two instrumental interludes based on portions of Lassus? two-voice motet "Sancti Mei" (?My holy people, who in this world have known only toil and strife, I shall grant you the reward of your labors?).

The third movement is a setting for mezzo-soprano of the traditional Latin "Requiem aeternam". Here too, instrumental interludes based on older sources are used ? in this movement Palestrina?s setting of "Veni Sancti Spiritus" (?Come Holy Spirit?), and moving medieval poem with its entreaty to ?grant a death of hope and peace.?

Additional Information

Commission Commissioned by the Philadelphia Composers Forum, 1971.
Composition Date 1971, rev. 1973
Orchestration Solo Mezzo-sop.; Picc. Cl. B.Cl. Vln. Vcl. Sitar, 2Perc. Pno.; Tape
Premiere Fall, 1971. Philadelphia Composers Forum.


1. ?...alles Fleisch...?
2. Kaddish
3. Requiem aeternam

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