Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Lacrimosa dies illa.

This is not the continuation of the 'fifteen authors' post, though that long-promised sequel really is on its way. My experience as a writer (outside as well as within the blogosphere) has been that the more introspective a piece of writing is, the longer it takes to produce - I tend to be even more of a perfectionist than usual when writing about my personal history or about aspects of my interior life, and it often takes me a frustratingly long time to put my thoughts on these topics into words that I would willingly submit for public consumption. I have been making incremental progress on part two of the fifteen authors post since I posted the first part, and I hope to have something to present by the end of this week.

I've had less time than usual for blogging in the last couple of weeks on account of the usual crush of activity that comes at the end of an academic term. This is exam week at Saint Joseph's University, so I'm currently working my way through piles of papers and bluebooks. The time of finals can be harrowing for students and teachers alike, which leads me to the musical selection shared above. If I had to choose a liturgical text that fits the general mood of exam week, it would probably be the following section of the sequence Dies Irae from the Latin Requiem Mass:

Lacrimosa dies illa
Qua resurget ex favilla
Judicandus homo reus.
Huic ergo parce, Deus:
Pie Jesu Domine,
Dona eis requiem. Amen.

For those who may want an English translation of the above lines, the following does so in terms more literal than lyrical:

Tearful that day,
on which will rise from ashes
the guilty man for judgment.
Therefore spare him, O God:
Compassionate Lord Jesus,
grant them rest. Amen.

The text of the Latin Requiem Mass has been set to music countless times, and I suspect that many readers could name their favorite settings of individual sections of the text as well as their overall 'favorite Requiem.' Saint-Saëns famously regarded the Pie Jesu from Fauré's Requiem as "the only Pie Jesu." At times, I have similarly thought of the Lacrimosa from Verdi's Messa da Requiem as the only Lacrimosa; this is admittedly only one of many fine settings of the Lacrimosa, but it's also the one that I (usually) find the most moving.

If you haven't heard Verdi's Lacrimosa - or if you simply haven't heard it for a while, or if you want to hear it again - then I invite you to watch and listen to the video above. In this recording from the 1980s, Herbert von Karajan leads the Wiener Philharmoniker and the combined forces of the Konzertvereinigung Wiener Staatsopernchor and the Chorus of the Sofia National Opera together with soloists Anna Tomowa-Sintow, Agnes Baltsa, José Carreras, and José van Dam. There are other great recordings of the Verdi Requiem to choose from, but this remains one of my favorites.

Prayers and good wishes to all readers for whom this is a particularly busy or stressful time, especially to those who are either writing or grading term papers and exams. May these days of academic judgment be not tearful - or at least no more tearful than absolutely necessary. AMDG.


At 12/16/2010 11:09 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ad te clamamus exsules filii Hevae,
Ad te suspiramus, gementes et flentes
in hac lacrimarum valle.


At 12/16/2010 4:37 PM, Blogger Joseph Koczera, S.J. said...


Those lines are also appropriate for exam week!

Joe K sj

At 12/17/2010 9:43 PM, Blogger Michelle said...

I've been grading to an Advent playlist and kept laughing whenever I heard "O come now wisdom from on high...", I never thought of trying this piece or various settings of the Salve Regina. There's a post in there of appropriate pieces of music for students and teachers!

I agree with you about the writing. I certainly find that the more deeply entwined the piece is with my interior life, the more difficult it is to peel it out onto paper. Since I've been writing the weekly reflections for the Standard & Times, I've developed a serious devotion to the Sacred Heart - a bit of my heart has to empty out on the paper with each one.

The legendary journalist Red Smith put it more lightheartedly, "There's nothing to writing.  All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein."

May the end of the semester wrap up without undue trauma for teacher or students....


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