Duruflé’s Requiem & MacMillan’s Cantos Sagrados

National Presbyterian Church, Washington DC

The Washington Chorus ends its 2018-19 season with two deeply moving choral works from the 20th century: Maurice Duruflé’s Requiem and James MacMillan’s Cantos Sagrados, both accompanied by an organist.

Duruflé’s spellbinding Requiem bears the influences of French modernist composers, but its melodies, according to the composer, are “based exclusively on themes from the Gregorian funeral mass.” The work’s luxuriant tone has made it one of the most popular choral compositions written during the last century, although Duruflé was inspired to begin composing it shortly after the death of his father in 1945, months after the conclusion of World War II. It was published in 1948 and dedicated to his father’s memory.

By his own account, MacMillan’s goal in composing Cantos Sagrados was “to compose something which was both timeless and contemporary, both sacred and secular.” The text combines Latin liturgy with poems by Ariel Dorfman and Ana Maria Mendoza addressing political repression in Latin America. Cantos Sagrados was composed in 1989 from a commission by the Scottish Chamber Choir (a group with whom The Washington Chorus’ Artistic Director Christopher has extensive experience) The work received its premiere in 1990 and the composer created an orchestrated version in 1997. The critic Steve Schwartz, writing a review of the Catalyst recording conducted by the composer and featuring the London Chamber Orchestra, described Cantos Sagrados as “a work filled with blood rather than angel juice.” The original version will be performed in this concert