I have always been awed by Hector Berlioz’ Grande Messe Des Mortes, but only tonight did I look into the history of this piece.
It turns out it was written with soldiers in mind.
Initially it was dedicated to the soldiers of the 1830 revolution that overthrew the wildly unpopular restoration of the absolutist Bourbon monarchy, and installed a constitutional Orleans monarch in its place.
It was first performed in a concert dedicated to French soldiers abroad in the colonies.
It’s a very powerful piece of music and although its origin is somewhat nationalistic, it is set to the standard Latin text of the requiem mass that is widely understood throughout the world. It is clear from the profound sadness of the piece that he felt strongly for the soldiers and understood their troubled last moments in a very unique way. It is sublimely different from every other requiem by any other composer; the Dies Irae movement, far from being the usual bombastic allegro presto movement (as in Mozart or Verdi), is a slow and grand call to the post for the ultimate inspection by the general of all generals. The melodic tension builds as the righteous are saluted and the wicked are stripped of their ribbons and dismissed unceremoniously.
It is a powerful piece and worth hearing at least once in your lifetime.
Here it is, all 92 minutes of it: