Maxim Shalygin: “Writing music for the common 20th-century types of classical ensembles that comprise a variety of instruments has lost its appeal to me over the last couple of years. My musical forms tend to show a reduction to homogeneous instrumental compositions: the Marian Antiphons for 12 voices a cappella, the Insane Dances for saxophone quartet, Six Bagatelles for Two Violins, the Suite – Homage to Alfred Schnittke for three cellos, etc. Thus, I conceived of a cycle for a lifetime, entitled Similar. Its first chapter is to be the Lacrimosas or 13 Magic Songs for seven violins”.
The Requiem has developed from the funeral mass and become widely popular as a secular type of sacred music. Arguably because of its subject matter, the genre hasn’t died during the 20th century; it has lived on, with works by Britten, Ligeti, Schnittke and Penderecki expressing how their authors longed for reconciliation with, and forgiveness from, the world and themselves.
The heart of the Requiem is the Dies Irae, well known for the words with which it opens but, thanks to Mozart, no less for its conclusive lines:
Ah! that day of tears and mourning,
From the dust of earth returning
Man for judgement must prepare him,
Spare, O God, in mercy spare him.
Lord, all-pitying, Jesus blest,
Grant them Thine eternal rest. Amen.
It is exactly this prayer for forgiveness and reconciliation that has won the Requiem its popularity. Although many Requiem varieties exist, no purely instrumental version has been composed yet. The Lacrimosas express an interesting and original view on the genre, in which violins replace human voices, sounding now as a prayerful chant, then as a malignant howl or a bird song. Most importantly, the parts relay an alternating perusal of the text of Lacrimosa as it is — perhaps the most strikingly human, prayerful words that exist, asking God for redemption and mercy.
The Lacrimosas or 13 Magic Songs are a lamentation, man’s final prayer before Judgement. This prayer can at once be terse and show the various states of man: gleeful, repenting, fearful, lamenting, faithful… During the performance of the 13 Songs, the listeners’ souls are supposed to pass through a series of excruciating, expressive stages and finally reach a catharsis. This direction determines the cycle’s dramaturgic structure. Composer’s aim is to transform an immediate, openly emotional response to powerful impressions — something most contemporary art refuses to deal with — into the musical form of the Lacrimosa. For all the varied techniques to be applied in the work, its emphasis is on feelings, its aspiration to capture the listeners’ minds, immersing them in the affect of each part. This idea can be realized only by a multi-voice, single-timbre ensemble of violins, which are at once a unity and a multitude, one soul and its many voices, a number of people struggling to come at peace with the world, one another, and silence…