Berkshire Choral International

Duruflé and Mozart in a Jewel of a Concert Hall

If you feel as if you’ve been transported to a cloister when you listen to the Duruflé Requiem, he’d be very happy about that.

According to classical music editor Russell Platt, writing in The New Yorker in 2012, Maurice Duruflé (1902-1986) “had his own silent collaborators on this work: the anonymous monks and church musicians who, in the medieval era, composed the treasure chest of Gregorian chants that are a permanent part of Christian service music.”

Starting with the tenors and basses, the Requiem rises to crescendos, falls back quietly, then rises again to glorious heights like flights of angels singing Hamlet to his rest. Indeed, that is after all the point of a requiem.

Duruflé himself said that the melodies, which Platt described as “a luxuriant harmonic bath,” are “based exclusively on themes from the Gregorian funeral mass. Sometimes I adopted the music exactly, leaving the orchestra to support or comment, in other passages [the chant] served merely as a stimulus.”

The Mozart Mass in C Major is familiarly known as the Coronation Mass, though it wasn’t written for a coronation. Composed in 1779 for the archbishop of Salzburg, the work was, however, performed posthumously at two coronations in 1791 (for Leopold II of Prague) and 1792 (Francis I of Austria).

The short work, attributed to the archbishop’s restrictions on length, still manages to combine the celebratory and the dramatic, the contemplative and the majestic.

Lauded for its outstanding acoustics, the 800-seat Vaughncille Joseph Meng Concert Hall engages the listener with its subtleties and unobstructed sound. With 800 seats, it is the largest performance space in the Clayes Performing Arts Center, which opened in January 2006. Designed specifically for music, it is home to the university’s choral and instrumental ensembles, in addition to visiting artists.