Memorial Service Music

Music for a Memorial Service 

If one were planning your own memorial service, what music would one like to have played? It's an interesting question which I would like to attempt to answer for myself, since I find music often to have greater meaning than words. A significant part of it has to be 20th-century music, because that's been a strong musical interest of mine. Here then is a workable program with a little thought and coherence, one from which to pick and choose. 

Alban Berg: Lulu
Prologue


4' 30"
The first line of the prologue, from the Wedekind play, "Hereinspaziert in die Menagerie", is a perfect comment on one's entry into this mixed-up world. As such, it also serves as perfect processional music.
Arnold Schoenberg: Pierrot Lunaire
8) Nacht 

18) Der Mondfleck 

21) O Alter Duft


2' 24"

1' 57"

1' 41"
Pierrot Lunaire is one of those revolutionary masterpieces that I never tire of hearing. Its lunatic world has echoes of the real one; both the poetry (the Hartleben free translation of Giraud's verses) and music are extraordinary. 

"Nacht" starts with "Finstre schwarze Riesenfalter / töteten der Sonne Glanz", which is a marvelous description of death as extinguishing the sun's lustre. The low instruments and voice make this a magnificent piece. 

How often have we labored without effect in this world just like Pierrot trying to rub out the moonbeam ("Mondfleck") on his coat. The music is famously complex, although more than I can hear and appreciate (canon, fugue, retrograde). 

Yes, Schoenberg could write gently lyrical music, as in "O Alter Duft". 

Here, the recording by Jan DeGaetani towers above all others.
Franz Schubert: Impromptus, Op. 90, No. 1
10' 16"
This could any or all of these wonderful impromptus of Op. 90. I used to play an LP of these back in the 1960s as a calming and peaceful interlude before going to sleep, along with "Schlummert ein" from J. S. Bach's Cantata BWV 82 (see below).
Erik Satie: Gymnopédie No. 2
2' 30"
The three Gymnopédies of Satie are wonderful pieces of music, very similar yet different. I learned to play all three and quite well, I think. Although the first is the best-known (perhaps too much so), the second is my favorite for having some nice key changes.
Olivier Messiaen: Vingt Régards sur l'Enfant-Jésus
1) Régard du Père



8' 58"
"Vingt Régards sur l'Enfant Jésus" is a towering masterpiece, in Messiaen's unique musical language. One doesn't have to have his religious devotion to be deeply moved. After substantial effort, and with great pride, I learned to play "Régard du Père", the first of the twenty. It's the only one I could even think of playing and, despite its key of F# and challenging 5-finger chords, I believe that I play it with real feeling and understanding. 

Other Messiaen selections could be the tenth of the Régards, "Régard de l'Ésprit de joie", as a perfect realization of "joy", or the "Louange à l'Eternité de Jésus" from the Quartet for the End of Time, but the "Régard du Père" has special meaning for me. The Austbo recording on Naxos is my favorite.
J.S. Bach: Cantata BWV 82 - Ich habe genug
3) Schlummert ein


9' 42"
"Schlummert ein" is an adult's lullaby, with its long, gentle melody. I've always liked the sentiment of "Ich habe genug", as in "what I have is sufficient", because life has given me enough to be satisfied with. But the cantata itself should end with this aria, instead of going on. 

The singer has to be Fischer-Dieskau.
Frank Martin: Requiem
Offertorium


3' 28"
The loveliest section of a neglected work, written and conducted by Martin shortly before his own death in 1974.
J.S. Bach: Cantata BWV 70 - Wachet, betet
8) Hebt euer Haupt empor


3' 41"
Beautiful tenor aria with a melody that goes on and on. After being requested to go to sleep ("Schlummert ein"), the listeners may now once more raise their heads ("Hebt euer Haupt empor").
J.S. Bach: Cantata BWV 30 - Freue dich, erlöste Schar
1) Freue dich ....



4' 16"
A lively, cheerful ending: an irresistible melody with bright trumpets. And maybe "freue dich, erlöste Schar", could mean that the attendees can be happy to be freed from the ceremony.

There's so much music to choose from, but it should be no surprise to anyone who knows me that Bach should figure so prominently in my program, and that there would be a significant amount of 20th-century music. Some pieces that I consciously did not include:
The last section of Bach's St. Matthew Passion; it's just too grand and monumental for any ordinary mortal. 

Lutoslawski's Funeral Music - wonderful, but a much too direct and manipulative reference. 

A movement from the Berg Violin Concerto - if it hadn't been written "dem Andenken eines Engels" (i.e., Manon Gropius).... 

A selection from Bach's "Ein Musikalisches Opfer", but which one?
There may still be changes from time to time. 


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