Requiem by János Vajda premiered on 10 May in Debrecen

Requiem by János Vajda premiered on 10 May in Debrecen

János Vajda (1949) has always been highly acclaimed for his vocal output. His Mario and the Magician and Leonce and Lena founded his fame as the leading Hungarian opera composer of the last decades. But his contribution to Latin sacred music is equally substantial, his Magnificat, Pater noster and Mass in B having been his main achievements so far.

His Requiem for mixed choir and organ was composed in 2012 and premiered on 10th May 2014 by its dedicatees, the Canticum Novum Chamber Choir in Debrecen, directed by Ágnes Török. The piece has eight movements, and its peculiarity is that unlike Mozart but similarly to Fauré’s Requiem the piece does not include an Offertorium; however, Lux aeterna is followed by a Libera me and an In Paradisum movement. On the other hand, Vajda set to music the dramatic Medieval sequentia Dies irae, missing from Fauré’s Requiem. In any case, these differences are permitted by the flexibility of the liturgy.

As far as range or voice technique are concerned, this piece does not represent exraordinary requirements to the performers; from the point of view of intonation, it is reckoning on the abilities of a professional ensemble or an accomplished amateur choir. The composer is flexible not only in liturgical respects: the organ player is encouraged to alter the indicated registration depending on the instrument and the venue; and the solo sections are ad libitum in the sense that they can be sung by competent chorus members, by soloists from outside the chorus or, in the lack of capable soloists, they can also be allotted to the full choir.

But what is most important to mention: the dramatic and pictoresque qualities of the piece, the special attention paid to the subtleties of the text and the exceptional melodic invention give the piece an extraordinary expressive power. More than that, the variety  of textures, sonorities and characters, the balanced structure of the work, so rich in contrasts, and, finally, its sensitive harmonic language exert a major impact on the listener from the very beginning.

(János Malina)