For many centuries, western composers have portrayed theChristian hell and heaven in settings of the Requiem Mass for the dead. Listen to the horrors of hell as they are dramatically present in Verdi's terrifying version of the Dies Irae, with its thunderous drums, snarling brass and rushing strings. Compare this with Britten's War Requiem, in which the day of wrath includes some ofWilfred Owen's most poignant poems from the living hell that was the Western Front, transformed into deeply moving music. Then compare these with the heaven evoked by Faure in his luminously gentle In Paradisum. The lulling organ and harp suggest that forgiveness is inevitable because there is nothing that cannot be pardoned. Must a musical journey from hell to heaven always involve a transition from discord to harmony? Ask pupils to find out for themselves.
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