Length: c. 15 minutes
Orchestration: 3 flutes (3rd = piccolo), alto flute, 2 bassoons, 4 horns, 2 trumpets, 3 trombones, timpani (2 players), percussion (orchestra bells, vibraphone, xylophone), celesta, piano, and strings, with alto and bass soloists and mixed chorus
First LA Phil performance: March 26, 1970, Zubin Mehta conducting
The Requiem Canticles is dedicated to the memory of Helen Buchanan Seeger, a benefactor of Princeton University, where it was first performed on October 8, 1966. The conductor was Stravinsky’s friend and artistic collaborator, Robert Craft.
The following is from an interview with the composer which took place shortly after this work’s completion:
“The idea of the triangular instrumental frame – string prelude, wind-instrumental interlude, percussion postlude – came quickly, and then I began to compose the… formal lament. The prelude puzzled its first audience. Some thought it too light, while others said it was like Bartók and even the beginning of Mozart’s “Dissonant” Quartet. I think, nevertheless that its ‘preluding’ manner is precisely suited to the musical matter to be expounded. But some people professed to hear curious echoes in other sections of the work as well, of Oedipus Rex in the ‘Tuba mirum,’ The Wedding in the “Postlude,” … Still, most listeners seemed to find it the easiest to take home of my last period – or last-ditch period – music, and though I know of no universal decision as to whether it is to be thought of as compressed or merely brief, I think the opus may safely be called the first mini- or pocket-Requiem.”
It would be Stravinsky’s last major work and was played at his funeral in Venice in 1971 with, again, Craft conducting.
— Herbert Glass