Francesco Filidei
A requiem for the 21st century?

Interviews 24.03.2021

A triple commission from the Casa da Música de Porto, the Ensemble Intercontemporain and Les Métaboles, Francesco Filidei 's Requiem was given its French premiere on 21 January at the Cité de la Musique, and was recorded and broadcast on Philharmonie Live the same day.

The composer gives us some thoughts on this new work.

Writing a requiem is not a trivial matter. What led you to this choice?

I think it's a mystery that I'm not yet able to decipher. The desire to write a requiem probably comes from this problem of memory that runs through my composition; the memory of my grandmother hitting my grandfather's coffin at his funeral is an image that remains in my mind and I feel this desire to express this very strong thought of death; I would also add that I am an organist and attached to the ritual of the church. I have already written a mass - Missa super l'Homme armé - but I had not yet envisaged a requiem; so it is done! 

Is it a requiem in the tradition of the genre?

I have kept the liturgical text in Latin and the main parts of the liturgical ritual: Requiem, Kyrie and Dies Irae, as Ligeti did. But after the very dramatic Dies irae, I add an Agnus that concludes the work in a more neutral and soothing climate, almost consonant, a great gentle oscillation on the caressing breath of the rhombus (a wind instrument that is rotated over the head), which I particularly like.  

How do you envisage the vocal treatment of the choir? 

The choral writing is above all rhythmic, with scansions and a particular vigour, not without a certain violence (like those whip blows that slam in the Kyrie), the violence that I feel inside me and that must be expressed. For this purpose, I used, as I often do in my works, tasers (electric impulse guns), which were forbidden on the Portuguese stage where the Requiem was premiered, but which were able to function at the Cité de la Musique in Paris.

One can hear some popular turns of phrase, as in Stravinsky's Les Noces.

Indeed, I am aware of that. But it was not a model for me. I would rather invoke Carl Orff's De temporum fine comœdia(The Comedy of the End of Time), an "opera-oratorio" written at the end of his life in which he pushes to its paroxysm the research on the choral rhythm and the percussive dimension in a brutal and primitive way which I like and which accompanied me in the writing of my Requiem, in particular in the mass treatments, when the whole choir starts to clap.

You say it's a "very Italian" requiem; in what sense?

Dramaturgically, theatrically first of all, as in Verdi, with contrasts between the four parts as well as within the Dies Irae, and colours, those of the male voices in the Mors stupebit with siren and noisy sounds. Two passages feature the solo voice. The first is the tenor in the Dies irae, who sings a traditional Sardinian song (the homeland of my ancestors) to the accompaniment of the choir, bird calls and cowbells, in a very pastoral context. The second solo intervention concerns the Lacrimosa, sung by one of the sopranos of the choir, a particularly expressive sequence, on an extremely low drone, where I bring out the "beautiful song" in great emotional tension.

What was the genesis of this Requiem?

The Remix Ensemble from Porto asked me to write a piece to celebrate their 20th anniversary. The idea of a Requiem to celebrate an anniversary was a bit surprising but did not displease them. It was the ensemble Les Métaboles, together with the EIC and under the direction of Léo Warynski, who were on the stage of the Philharmonie de Paris for the French premiere on January 21 at the Philharmonie.

After the Missa super l'Homme armé and the Requiem, do you have other projects with the choir and the instruments

This time I want to write a Stabat Mater...

Interview by Michèle Tosi


buy twitter accounts