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The Music for the Requiem Mass is any music that accompanies the Requiem, a Mass in the Catholic Church for the deceased. It has inspired a large number of compositions, including settings by Mozart, Berlioz, Donizetti, Verdi, Bruckner, Saint-Saëns, Dvořák, Fauré and Duruflé. Originally, such compositions were meant to be performed in liturgical service, with monophonic chant. Eventually the dramatic character of the text began to appeal to composers to an extent that they made the requiem a genre of its own, and the compositions of composers such as Verdi are essentially concert pieces rather than liturgical works.

Incipit of the Gregorian chant introit for a Requiem Mass, from the Liber Usualis.

Common texts

The following are the texts that have been set to music. Note that the Libera Me and the In Paradisum are not part of the text of the Catholic Mass for the Dead itself, but a part of the burial rite that immediately follows. In Paradisum was traditionally said or sung as the body left the church, and the Libera Me is said/sung at the burial site before interment. These became included in musical settings of the Requiem in the 19th century as composers began to treat the form more liberally.


From 4 Esdras 2:34–35; Psalm 65:1-2

Kyrie eleison

This is as the Kyrie in the Ordinary of the Mass:

This is Greek (Κύριε ἐλέησον, Χριστὲ ἐλέησον, Κύριε ἐλέησον). Each utterance is sung three times, though sometimes that is not the case when sung polyphonically.


From 4 Esdras 2:34–35; Psalm 112:6



Main article: Dies irae

A sequence is a liturgical poem sung, when used, after the Tract (or Alleluia, if present). The sequence employed in the Requiem, Dies irae, attributed to Thomas of Celano (c. 1200 – c. 1260–1270), has been called "the greatest of hymns", worthy of "supreme admiration".[1] The Latin text is included in the Requiem Mass in the 1962 Roman Missal. An early English version was translated by William Josiah Irons in 1849.



This is as the Sanctus prayer in the Ordinary of the Mass:

Agnus Dei

This is as the Agnus Dei in the Ordinary of the Mass, but with the petitions miserere nobis changed to dona eis requiem, and dona nobis pacem to dona eis requiem sempiternam:[2]

Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi: dona eis requiem.
Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi: dona eis requiem.
Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi: dona eis requiem sempiternam.

Lamb of God, Who takest away the sins of the world, grant them rest.
Lamb of God, Who takest away the sins of the world, grant them rest.
Lamb of God, Who takest away the sins of the world, grant them eternal rest.

Lux æterna

As mentioned above, there is no Gloria, Alleluia or Credo in these musical settings.

Pie Jesu

Main article: Pie Jesu

Some extracts too have been set independently to music, such as Pie Jesu in the settings of Dvořák, Fauré, Duruflé and John Rutter.

The Pie Jesu consists of the final words of the Dies irae followed by the final words of the Agnus Dei.

Musical Requiem settings sometimes include passages from the "Absolution at the bier" (Absolutio ad feretrum) or "Commendation of the dead person" (referred to also as the Absolution of the dead), which in the case of a funeral, follows the conclusion of the Mass.

Libera me

Main article: Libera me

In paradisum

Main article: In paradisum

History of musical compositions

For many centuries the texts of the requiem were sung to Gregorian melodies. The Requiem by Johannes Ockeghem, written sometime in the later half of the 15th century, is the earliest surviving polyphonic setting. There was a setting by the elder composer Guillaume Du Fay, possibly earlier, which is now lost: Ockeghem's may have been modelled on it.[3] Many early compositions employ different texts that were in use in different liturgies around Europe before the Council of Trent set down the texts given above. The requiem of Brumel, circa 1500, is the first to include the Dies Iræ. In the early polyphonic settings of the Requiem, there is considerable textural contrast within the compositions themselves: simple chordal or fauxbourdon-like passages are contrasted with other sections of contrapuntal complexity, such as in the Offertory of Ockeghem's Requiem.[3]

In the 16th century, more and more composers set the Requiem mass. In contrast to practice in setting the Mass Ordinary, many of these settings used a cantus-firmus technique, something which had become quite archaic by mid-century. In addition, these settings used less textural contrast than the early settings by Ockeghem and Brumel, although the vocal scoring was often richer, for example in the six-voice Requiem by Jean Richafort which he wrote for the death of Josquin des Prez.[3] Other composers before 1550 include Pedro de Escobar, Antoine de Févin, Cristóbal de Morales, and Pierre de la Rue; that by la Rue is probably the second oldest, after Ockeghem's.

Over 2,000 Requiem compositions have been composed to the present day. Typically the Renaissance settings, especially those not written on the Iberian Peninsula, may be performed a cappella (i.e. without necessary accompanying instrumental parts), whereas beginning around 1600 composers more often preferred to use instruments to accompany a choir, and also include vocal soloists. There is great variation between compositions in how much of liturgical text is set to music.

Most composers omit sections of the liturgical prescription, most frequently the Gradual and the Tract. Fauré omits the Dies iræ, while the very same text had often been set by French composers in previous centuries as a stand-alone work.

Sometimes composers divide an item of the liturgical text into two or more movements; because of the length of its text, the Dies iræ is the most frequently divided section of the text (as with Mozart, for instance). The Introit and Kyrie, being immediately adjacent in the actual Roman Catholic liturgy, are often composed as one movement.

Musico-thematic relationships among movements within a Requiem can be found as well.

Requiem in concert

Beginning in the 18th century and continuing through the 19th, many composers wrote what are effectively concert works, which by virtue of employing forces too large, or lasting such a considerable duration, prevent them being readily used in an ordinary funeral service; the requiems of Gossec, Berlioz, Verdi, and Dvořák are essentially dramatic concert oratorios. A counter-reaction to this tendency came from the Cecilian movement, which recommended restrained accompaniment for liturgical music, and frowned upon the use of operatic vocal soloists.

Notable compositions

See also: Category:Requiems

A portion of the manuscript of Mozart's Requiem, K 626 (1791), showing his heading for the first movement.

Many composers have composed a Requiem. Some of the most notable include the following (in chronological order):

Other composers



Classical period[edit]

Romantic era[edit]

20th century[edit]

21st century[edit]

Requiem by language (other than Latin)[edit]

English with Latin




French, Greek, with Latin

French, English, German with Latin

Latin and Japanese

Latin and German and others

Latin and Polish

Latin and 7th Century Northumbrian





Modern treatments

In the 20th century the requiem evolved in several new directions. One offshoot consists of compositions dedicated to the memory of people killed in wartime. These often include extra-liturgical poems of a pacifist or non-liturgical nature; for example, the War Requiem of Benjamin Britten juxtaposes the Latin text with the poetry of Wilfred Owen, Krzysztof Penderecki's Polish Requiem includes a traditional Polish hymn within the sequence, and Robert Steadman's Mass in Black intersperses environmental poetry and prophecies of Nostradamus. Holocaust Requiem may be regarded as a specific subset of this type. The World Requiem of John Foulds was written in the aftermath of the First World War and initiated the Royal British Legion's annual festival of remembrance. Recent requiem works by Taiwanese composers Tyzen Hsiao and Fan-Long Ko follow in this tradition, honouring victims of the February 28 Incident and subsequent White Terror.

Lastly, the 20th century saw the development of the secular Requiem, written for public performance without specific religious observance, such as Frederick Delius's Requiem, completed in 1916 and dedicated to "the memory of all young Artists fallen in the war",[16] and Dmitry Kabalevsky's Requiem (Op. 72 – 1962), a setting of a poem written by Robert Rozhdestvensky especially for the composition.[17] Herbert Howells's unaccompanied Requiem uses Psalm 23 ("The Lord is my shepherd"), Psalm 121 ("I will lift up mine eyes"), "Salvator mundi" ("O Saviour of the world," in English), "Requiem aeternam" (two different settings), and "I heard a voice from heaven." Some composers have written purely instrumental works bearing the title of requiem, as famously exemplified by Britten's Sinfonia da Requiem. Hans Werner Henze's Das Floß der Medusa, written in 1968 as a requiem for Che Guevara, is properly speaking an oratorio; Henze's Requiem is instrumental but retains the traditional Latin titles for the movements. Igor Stravinsky's Requiem Canticles mixes instrumental movements with segments of the "Introit," "Dies irae," "Pie Jesu," and "Libera me."

See also


  1. ^ Nott, Charles C. (1902). The Seven Great Hymns of the Mediaeval Church. New York: Edwin S. Gorham. p. 45. Retrieved 6 July 2010. nott seven great hymns.
  2. ^ "Mass | Grove Music". doi:10.1093/gmo/9781561592630.article.45872. ISBN 978-1-56159-263-0. Retrieved 2018-09-13.
  3. ^ a b c Fabrice Fitch: "Requiem (2)", Grove Music Online, ed. L. Macy (Accessed January 21, 2007)
  4. ^ p. 8, Kinder (2000) Keith William. Westport, Connecticut. The Wind and Wind-Chorus Music of Anton Bruckner Greenwood Press
  5. ^ "John Baboukis". Archived from the original on 2016-12-20. Retrieved 2016-12-16.
  6. ^ "Requiem Survey".
  7. ^ "Ashley Bryan".
  8. ^ Maddocks, Fiona (March 25, 2012). "Bob Chilcott: Requiem – review" – via
  9. ^ "The Sound of History—A New Requiem by Gabriela Lena Frank". April 18, 2017.
  10. ^ a b "HAWES Lazarus Requiem - Signum SIGCD282 [JQ]: Classical Music Reviews - August 2012 MusicWeb-International".
  11. ^ "Ehsan Saboohi - Phonemes Requiem". Discogs.
  12. ^ "Aaron Robinson (1907- )".
  13. ^ "Ashley Bryan, 95, 'always honored' to have a new show".
  14. ^ "Phonemes Requiem, by Ehsan Saboohi". spectropolrecords.
  15. ^ ALM Records ALCD-76 Silenziosa Luna
  16. ^ Corleonis, Adrian. Requiem, for soprano, baritone, double chorus & orchestra, RT ii/8 All Music Guide, Retrieved 2011-02-20
  17. ^ Flaxman, Fred. Controversial Comrade Kabalevsky Compact Discoveries with Fred Flaxman, 2007, Retrieved 2011-02-20;