Requiem for the New World- Score Only
Requiem for the New World- Score Only
Cantata for Choir and Orchestra
Duration: approx. 40:00
Instrumentation: 2 Flutes, 2 Oboes, 2 Clarinets, 2 Bassoons, 2 Horns, 4 Timpani, Cymbals, Bombo, Rainstick, Guitar, Harp, Piano, SATB Chorus, Soprano, Boy Soprano, Baritone, Strings
In the “Age of Discovery” (15th through the 18th centuries), the term “New World” meant nothing to the Incas, Aztecs, Native Americans and other original inhabitants of the Western Hemisphere. But to the European settlers it meant everything: freedom from the established religious and political order in their homeland, discovery of vast expanses of territory they could call their own to cultivate, and yes—invasion and conquest!
Then in November of 1893, a group of Fort Worth Episcopalians established a “New World,” of their own: a mission church that would evolve into a full parish by 1896. They adopted the name “Trinity,” obviously with reverence to the Holy Trinity, and possibly the church’s close proximity to the Trinity River.
Requiem for the New World by Nico Gutiérrez (b. 1993) was commissioned by Trinity Episcopal Church to commemorate its 125th anniversary, and also to memorialize the native peoples of the “New World” who fell victim to European invaders. Similar reflections on war and death are found in works such as Haydn’s Mass in Time of War and Britten’s War Requiem. But the present work, completed just this year (2018), is unique in its specific emphasis on languages and literature from Latin American cultures.
Gutiérrez writes: “Being Colombian-American, I am of both Amerindian and Spanish descent. So when asked to write this Requiem, I wanted to use this opportunity to honor my heritage, the millions of innocent people who’s lives were taken, but also the new and present cultures that were born from this period.”
Language is a key theme throughout this work. It uses the sacred texts of the traditional Roman Catholic mass, but is interspersed with those of Latin American poets. This juxtaposition of sacred and secular mirrors the conflict and fusion of these different cultures. The work uses texts from six different languages: the traditional Latin and Greek, as well as English, Spanish, Náhuatl (the ancient language of the Aztecs), and Quechua (the spoken language of the Incas). It is through these languages that the Requiem for the New World most effectively explores and expresses its message.
I. After a captivating orchestral introduction, the Requiem begins with the choral Introit. Its consoling message is interrupted by an aggressive march in the orchestra over which the soprano soloist chants excerpts from two Náhuatl poems by the Aztec warrior-king Nezahualcoyotl, who is best known for his surviving poetry reflecting on nature and life. In contrast to the choir’s tri-lingual prayer for eternal rest for the dead, Nezahualcoyotl’s poems suggest the uncertainty and confusion of questions left unanswered.
II. The Kyrie is a prayer for mercy. It opens with a boy-soprano solo over a hypnotic piano accompaniment figure that persists throughout the movement. The choir then joins in with the “Christe eleison,” followed by a text from a poem from the Cantares Mexicanos, the largest collection of Nahuatl literature. The text reflects more uncertainty about the afterlife.
III. One of the most fearfully dramatic movements in any Requiem mass is the Dies Irae, describing the Last Judgment where all souls are either saved or cast into eternal flames. The Latin text is paired with an excerpt from the theatrical work El Divino Narciso, an allegorical play on the Spanish conquest of the Aztecs, written in 1689 by the self-taught philosopher, scholar, poet, and composer Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz. Her visionary and tragic life was portrayed in the opera With Blood, With Ink, premiered by the Fort Worth Opera in 2014.
IV. Following the turmoil of the preceding movements, the Confutatis reflects on death from the perspective of a native Incan. Accompanied by harp, a baritone solo presents a modern Quechua poem written by Peruvian poet, Lily Flores Palomino. The text portrays a sense of futility among the natives, as the invaders saw little value in their lives.
V. Using full orchestral resources, the Soledad represents the Lacrimosa, written in the style of an Argentinean tango. A solo cellist plays a plaintive melody throughout, representing feelings of loneliness and sorrow after the death of a loved one.
VI. In the Quemadmodum, the a cappella choir sings the first three verses of Psalm 42 in English, the first verse expressing a yearning for God’s comfort in moments of utter sadness. Gutiérrez showcases the choir’s beauty using unexpected harmonic progressions and exquisite blending. The movement ends on an unresolved chord, mirroring the question at the end of the third verse: “Where is now thy God?”
VII. Scored for choir, solo baritone, and strings, and sung exclusively in Latin, the Sanctus et Benedictus represents an emotional turning point in the Requiem. Its uplifting musical message reflects the comforting and triumphant text, using melodic fragments that reappear in the following movement.
VIII. Symbolizing the transformation from Latin America’s dark periods to the birth of many new and unique cultures, the Agnus Dei opens with a peaceful guitar solo and accompaniment to a duet between soprano and boy soprano; they sing an emotional cradle song from a mother whose child has passed away. The text is from a poem by the Chilean poet Gabriela Mistral, the first Latin-American author to receive the Nobel Prize in Literature. Then the choral “Agnus Dei” (lamb of God) and “Lux aeterna” (light perpetual) bring the Requiem for the New World to a peaceful conclusion.