Requiem for Auschwitz is a monumental work for orchestra, chorus, pipe organ and vocal soloists. Set to the text of the Latin Mass, the requiem was conceived by Roger ‘Moreno’ Rathgeb, a Dutch Sinto who finished composing the work in 2009.
Requiem as collective remembrance
The fundamental impetus for the requiem’s genesis was Rathgeb’s visit to the Auschwitz extermination camp. The composer was moved to commemorate the suffering of all Holocaust victims as well as to convey a message of reconciliation and mutual respect. He felt that the Latin text would be a neutral, cross-cultural medium open to various interpretations in keeping with each group’s or person’s beliefs.
The requiem’s musical themes and motives correspond to the emotional experiences and philosophical questions associated with Auschwitz as a place and a historical phenomenon. In the Agnus Dei, for example, Rathgeb allows for the possibility of victims praying on behalf of the perpetrators’ souls.
More than music
The composer wrote extensive programme notes for the piece, adding layers of meaning to the listener’s perception. Following is a very short excerpt:
‘During the second section the alto, tenor and choir recite the “Requiem” and “Kyrie eleison” in antiphony, accompanied by brass and strings. It is not intended as a prayer, but rather as a nearly demanding appeal, ending in an imploring cry of “Lord, have mercy”.’Roger Moreno Rathgeb
Within the framework of the Philharmonic project, the piece took on a multimedia dimension: photographs of Holocaust victims were projected onto a screen to deepen the audience’s connection to what the requiem represents.
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