Compact Discoveries®
a series of one-hour radio programs produced, written, hosted, and edited
by Fred Flaxman

©2014 by Fred Flaxman

Program 233
"Dies Irae"

MUSIC: Dies Irae (Gregorian Chant) sung by the Deller Consort [over the following]

Hello and welcome to Compact Discoveries. I’m your guide, Fred Flaxman. When I started producing this series of radio programs in 2002, I made a couple of programs called “The Tune that Drove Composers Wild.” The tune was from Paganini’s 24th Caprice for solo violin, and composers have been writing variations on it ever since.

Let’s fast forward to 2014 when a listener named Jack Brin discovered Compact Discoveries on public radio station WMNR in Monroe, Connecticut. He got in touch with me by e-mail and let me know that there was another melody like that, the Gregorian Chant called “Dies Irae” that you hear in the background right now. According to Wikipedia, “Dies Irae” in Latin means “Day of Wrath” in English. But “Dies Irae” sounds to me as if it means “Day of Irritation” or in colloquial American English, “Bad Hair Day.”

In any case,  Berlioz, Tchaikovsky, Respighi, Bloch, and Khachaturian are just a few of the composers who used this same progression of notes in their compositions. We’ll hear how in this hour of Compact Discoveries.

MUSIC:
fades out

Jack Brin sent me a home-made CD with “Dies Irae” excerpts from these composers and several others. Included were excerpts from Todtentanz by Franz Liszt…

MUSIC:
“Dies Irae” excerpt from Liszt: Todtentanz

Veronique by Messager…

MUSIC:
“Dies Irae” excerpt from Messager: Veronique

Tam O’Shanter by Chadwick…

MUSIC:
“Dies Irae” excerpt from Chadwick: Tam O’Shanter

Middle Ages by Glazounov…

MUSIC:
“Dies Irae” excerpt from Glazounov: Middle Ages

The Wand of Youth by Elgar…

MUSIC:
“Dies Irae” excerpt from The Wand of Youth by Elgar

The Isle of the Dead by Rachmaninoff…

MUSIC:
“Dies Irae” excerpt from Rachmaninoff: Isle of the Dead

Variation 7 from Rachmaninoff’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini

MUSIC:
“Dies Irae” excerpt from Rachmaninoff: Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, Variation 7

Variation 24 from Rachmaninoff’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini

MUSIC:
“Dies Irae” excerpt from Rachmaninoff: Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, Variation 24

Hamlet by Shostakovich…

MUSIC:
“Dies Irae” excerpt from Shostakovich: Hamlet

Dance Variations by Morton Gould…

MUSIC:
“Dies Irae” excerpt from Gould: Dance Variations

Bacchanale by Albert Harris…

MUSIC:
“Dies Irae” excerpt from Albert Harris: Bacchanale

and that “Dies Irae” theme is even used in the credits for the motion picture, The Shining.

MUSIC:
“Dies Irae” excerpt from the soundtrack for The Shining

The music which is called “Gregorian Chant” is a form of monophonic, unaccompanied sacred song of the western Roman Catholic Church. It developed mainly in western and central Europe during the 9th and 10 centuries. Although popular legend credits Pope St. Gregory the Great with inventing Gregorian chant, scholars believe that it arose from a later synthesis of Roman chant and Gallican chant.

Now let’s hear four excerpts from Hector Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique which shows how he used this very theme in the fifth movement of his composition. The excerpts will be followed by the entire movement as performed by the Cincinnati Symphony conducted by Paavo Järvi on a Telarc compact disc. The ten-minute movement is called “Songe d’une nuit du sabbat / Dream of the Witches’ Sabbath.”

MUSIC:
Berlioz: excerpt 1 from Symphonie Fantastique, fifth movement, “Songe d’une nuit du sabbat / Dream of the Witches’ Sabbath,” performed by the Cincinnati Symphony, conducted by Paavo Järvi [Telarc CD-80578, track 5]  [1:34]

MUSIC:
Berlioz: excerpt 2 from Symphonie Fantastique, fifth movement, “Songe d’une nuit du sabbat / Dream of the Witches’ Sabbath,” performed by the Cincinnati Symphony, conducted by Paavo Järvi [Telarc CD-80578, track 5]  [0:21]

MUSIC: Berlioz: excerpt 3 from Symphonie Fantastique, fifth movement, “Songe d’une nuit du sabbat / Dream of the Witches’ Sabbath,” performed by the Cincinnati Symphony, conducted by Paavo Järvi [Telarc CD-80578, track 5]
  [0:21]

MUSIC: Berlioz: excerpt 4 from Symphonie Fantastique, fifth movement, “Songe d’une nuit du sabbat / Dream of the Witches’ Sabbath,” performed by the Cincinnati Symphony, conducted by Paavo Järvi [Telarc CD-80578, track 5]
  [0:40]

Four excerpts from the final movement of Hector Berlioz’s Symphonie fantastique illustrating his use of the Latin melody, “Dies Irae.” Now let’s hear the entire movement while we listen together for the “Dies Irae” theme.

MUSIC: Berlioz: Symphonie Fantastique, fifth movement, “Songe d’une nuit du sabbat / Dream of the Witches’ Sabbath,” performed by the Cincinnati Symphony, conducted by Paavo Järvi [Telarc CD-80578, track 5]  [10:08]

The final movement from the Symphonie Fantastique by Hector Berlioz. Paavo Järvi conducted the Cincinnati Symphony on a Telarc release. The movement shows Berlioz’s use of the Gregorian chant, “Dies Irae,” and “Dies Irae” is our theme for this hour of Compact Discoveries. I’m your guide, Fred Flaxman.

[optional one-minute break not included in the program timing]

Tchaikovsky also made use of this theme, in both his Manfred Symphony and in the final theme and variations movement of his Suite for Orchestra No. 3 in G Major, Op. 55. Can you pick out the tune in this excerpt from the performance of the suite by the Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra conducted by Sir Neville Marriner?

MUSIC:
Tchaikovsky: excerpt from Suite for Orchestra No. 3 in G Major, Op. 55, performed by the Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra conducted by Sir Neville Marriner [Capriccio 10 200, Track 4]  [1:14]

A brief excerpt from Tchaikovsky’s Suite for Orchestra No. 3, performed by the Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra conducted by Sir Neville Marriner.

You are listening to music which makes use of the melody from the Gregorian chant, “Dies Irae” on this hour of Compact Discoveries. I’m your guide, Fred Flaxman.

[optional one-minute break not included in the program timing]

The Italian composer Ottorino Respighi also made use of the “Dies Irae” theme. It emerges in, of all places, the second movement of his 1928 composition, Impressioni brasiliane / Brazilian Impressions. This is how it sounds:

MUSIC: Respighi: excerpt from the second movement of Impressioni brasiliane, performed by the Orchestra Sinfonica di Roma [Brilliant Classics 2CD 94393, CD 1, Track 2]
  [1:17]

Did you hear the “Dies Irae” theme? Listen for it again in this performance of the entire movement as performed by the Orchestra Sinfonica di Roma conducted by Francesco La Vecchia on a Brilliant Classics compact disc.

MUSIC: Respighi: the second movement of Impressioni brasiliane, performed by the Orchestra Sinfonica di Roma conducted by Francesco La Vecchia [Brilliant Classics 2CD 94393, CD 1, Track 2]
  [5:50]

The second movement of Ottorino Respighi’s Impressioni brasiliane / Brazilian Impressions. The Orchestra Sinfonica di Roma was conducted by Francesco La Vecchia.

Ernest Bloch’s Suite symphonique also makes use of the “Dies Irae” theme in the final movement, like this:

MUSIC: Bloch: excerpt from Suite symphonique, performed by the Malmö Symphony Orchestra conducted by Sakari Oramo [BIS CD-639, Track 3]
  [0:10]

Here’s the entire movement as performed by the Malmö Symphony Orchestra conducted by Sakari Oramo on a BIS compact disc.

MUSIC: Bloch: final movement from Suite symphonique, performed by the Malmö Symphony Orchestra conducted by Sakari Oramo [BIS CD-639 , Track 3]
  [7:00]

The final movement from Ernest Bloch’s Suite symphonique, performed by the Malmö Symphony Orchestra conducted by Sakari Oramo.

In case you tuned in late, we’ve been listening to the Gregorian chant, "Dies Irae," as used by composers throughout the centuries. We’ll conclude the hour with the Third Movement from Aram Khachaturian’s Symphony No. 2 in E Minor, known as “the Bell Symphony.” First, here are four examples of how Khachaturian uses the “Dies Irae” theme:

MUSIC: Khachaturian: four excerpts from the third movement, “Andante sostenuto,” of Symphony No. 2 in E Minor, performed by the USSR State Symphony Orchestra conducted by Aram Khachaturian [Melodia CD 10 01706, Track 3]
  [1:52]

Now let’s listen to the entire “Andante sostenuto,” “Dies Irae” movement from Khachaturian’s Symphony No. 2 as performed live at the Great Hall of the Moscow Conservatory on February 15, 1977. This is from a Melodya compact disc with the USSR State Symphony Orchestra conducted by the composer.

MUSIC: Khachaturian: the third movement, “Andante sostenuto,” of Symphony No. 2 in E Minor, performed by the USSR State Symphony Orchestra conducted by Aram Khachaturian [Melodia CD 10 01706, Track 3]
  [12:39]

The third movement of Aram Khachaturian’s Symphony No. 2 in E Minor. The composer conducted the USSR State Symphony Orchestra in this live recording from 1977. Did you pick up on the “Dies Irae” theme? If not, you can always listen to this piece and this entire program again streamed on demand. You’ll find the link at compactdiscoveries.com. This is Compact Discoveries program number 233.

At the Compact Discoveries website you can also see the script for information on every recording used. You can reach me through the website or directly at fred@compactdiscoveries.com. I truly enjoy hearing from listeners all over the world who hear the program either on their local public radio station or via the SKY.FM Compact Discoveries Channel on the internet. In any case, thank you for listening now, and I hope you’ll tune in again.

My thanks, also, to Compact Discoveries listener Jack Brin in Windsor, Connecticut. He  provided the “Dies Irae” concept for this program as well as many examples of the Gregorian chant’s use by more recent composers. I’m Fred Flaxman, your guide to Compact Discoveries.

MUSIC: Rachmaninov: Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, Op. 43: Variation 24, performed by pianist Stephen Hough with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra conducted by Andrew Litton [Hyperion CDA67501/2, CD 1, Track 32]
  [1:23]

ANNOUNCER (Tana Flaxman): Compact Discoveries is made possible in part by an anonymous donor from Palm Beach, Florida. And by the financial support of Isabel and Marvin Leibowitz, Art and Eva Stevens, and ArkivMusic dot com, the online store for classical music CDs, DVDs, downloads, and over 10,000 on-demand reissued titles. That’s A-r-k-i-v Music dot com.

Program Ends at 58:00