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Stale KLEIBERG (b. 1958)
Requiem for the victims of Nazi persecution (2004)
(1. Requiem aeternam [6:20]; 2. Dies irae [6:37]; 3. The Yellow Triangle: Jews [6:24]; 4. Kyrie [3:29]; 5. The Brown Triangle: Gypsies [4:18]; 6. Agnus Dei [3:27]; 7. The Pink Triangle: Homosexuals [5:56]; 8. Psalm 13 [7:14]; 9. Libera Me [3:23]; 10. In paradisum [2:40])
Catherine King (mezzo); Jason Ayoub (horn) (3); Noemi Kiss (sop) (5); Christian Hilz (bar) (7)
The Choirs of Washington National Cathedral
Washington National Cathedral Chamber Orchestra/Michael McCarthy
Rec. Washington Cathedral, 2004


This is a timely issue as the world commemorates the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. This is a work I found both beautiful and dignified, and, though the word may seem inappropriate, exciting, for it is extremely powerful with a momentum that is evident right from the start.

Norwegian composer Stale Kleiberg has succeeded in writing a piece that is a fitting tribute to the victims of the Holocaust; a piece that holds its head up high, without any over-sentimentalising of events which were so unspeakable they need nothing but a truthful telling.

The work is divided into three principal sections representing Jews, Gypsies and homosexuals to stand for all who suffered Nazi persecution. The soloists detail how these groups were singled out for annihilation. These sections are framed by and interspersed with several of the recognised mainstays of requiems: Requiem Aeternam, Dies Irae, Kyrie and Agnus Dei, plus Psalm 13, Libera Me and In Paradisum. In doing this Kleiberg has followed in the musical footsteps of Britten whose "War Requiem" was composed to be performed at the newly completed Coventry Cathedral in 1960, after its medieval predecessor was destroyed in the German air raid of November 1940. For that work Britten selected poems by the First World War poet Wilfred Owen to point up his Requiem’s assertion that war is the signal failure of societies and governments to resolve differences without resorting to self-destruction. Kleiberg, in his turn, has used modern poetry in a similar way to highlight this same terrible truth. He commissioned Edwin Morgan, the Glasgow poet Laureate, who himself fought in the Second World War, to write three poems, each representing a group as mentioned above. And mighty powerful poems they are too as the following extract from the 3rd movement "The Yellow Triangle: Jews" amply demonstrates:-
"…From the shattered shops of the Kristallnacht
To the shattered bodies of the camps
Was a small step. From the shattered bodies
To the final solution was a small step.
We entered by the gate of fear.
We exited without hope, as smoke.
The chimneys pointed at the sky
In silence, unaccusing, unaccused..."

Powerful, direct and brutal in the graphic stories they tell, the words of the poems are cradled by some equally powerful music. The second movement, Dies Irae, reminded me very much of Orff’s "Carmina Burana" inasmuch as it is earthy and musically very strong. All the music is extremely effective in putting over the horror and poignancy of the events and is well played and sung by a clearly devoted band and choirs. This is a work that deserves to be heard and it would be wonderful if it were programmed into this the 2005 Proms season. I thoroughly and unreservedly recommend that you listen to it.

Steve Arloff

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