When the term “requiem” arises in conversations about music, the first piece that often springs to mind is Mozart’s Requiem in D minor, K. 626.
The brilliant composer’s last work — which was actually not completed when he died at age 35 in December of 1791 and some of his contemporaries were charged with that task — is renowned for its impact and beauty, and the mysteries that surround its creation and completion.
But 200 years ago the most prized and oft-heard requiem would have been Luigi Cherubini’s Requiem in C minor, which debuted in 1817. The work was widely admired by those who heard it and by Cherubini’s fellow composers. Beethoven was reportedly a big fan of the piece and it was even performed at the monumental composer’s funeral in 1827.
Jean-Sébastien Lévesque is Bach on the Rock’s new artistic director, who has been working with the chamber orchestra and choir on both the Mozart and Cherubini requiems for a concert called Two Requiems on Saturday, Nov. 19 at Fulford Hall.
He said the reason he chose this program for his first concert with the group “is mostly about having THE most known/respected/played requiem paired with what used to be THE most known/respected/played requiem 200 years ago. Both works are also some of the best to work on for ensemble cohesion and, as a conductor, it is always the first thing to work on when we start working with an ensemble.”
Lévesque moved to Vancouver from Montreal in 2019, where he was the director of Ensemble Choral Saint-Eustache, conductor/founder of the choir at Orchestre Philharmonique des Musiciens de Montréal and founder/artistic director of Chanteurs du Brouhaha. He is also an accomplished pianist, accompanist and teacher, has a masters degree in music from the Université de Montréal, and was mentored by Jean Saulnier and André Laplante, among others.
Bach on the Rock, now in its 18th season, is comprised of high-level amateur singers and musicians, as well as some professionals from both on and off Salt Spring.
For the Two Requiems concert, four professional Victoria vocalists will perform the solos. They are Gwen Jamieson, soprano; Deanna Sills, mezzo-soprano; Adam Dyjach, tenor; and Louis Dhillon, bass.
The Nov. 19 concert begins at 7 p.m.
Tickets are available in advance online at bachontherock.com or at the door.