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Days of Wrath and Johnny Cash


Simcha Fisher - published on 09/08/16

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Only yesterday did I discover that Antonín Dvořák (whose birthday is today) wrote a requiem. You guys, it is a doozy. Here’s just a few minutes of it, the first few sections of the Dies Irae.

Here’s what they’re singing (translations courtesy of Wikipedia):

1Dies iræ, dies illa
Solvet sæclum in favilla,
Teste David cum Sibylla.
Day of wrath and doom impending.
David’s word with Sibyl’s blending,
Heaven and earth in ashes ending.
2Quantus tremor est futurus,
Quando Judex est venturus,
Cuncta stricte discussurus!
Oh, what fear man’s bosom rendeth,
When from heaven the Judge descendeth,
On whose sentence all dependeth.

Here’s just that section (the entire Dies Irae is longer):

The baby and the dog and the parakeet were very perturbed as I checked out various recordings. The Dies Irae is the part where you really need to make a fuss (see text above). The rest of this particular Requiem is not all crashing and shouting, though.

In a review of a 2014 recording of Dvořák’s Requiem by conductor Antoni Wit, David Hurwitz notes:

One of the most interesting things about the Requiem is that, unlike almost all of its predecessors, it does not end with a vision of consolation. In fact, the conclusion is remarkably unsentimental, even grim, with Dvorák returning to the “death” motive and staying in a minor key right up to the final bar.

Because I have no powers of concentration, I was scrolling through Facebook’s “on this day” memories as I listened, and I came across this video, which I posted on Dvořák’s birthday several years ago:

Oh, boy, talk about not ending in a vision of consolation. The words are conventional hope-in-the-Gospel stuff, but you can hear the doubt piling on, shovel by shovelful. Cash died in 2003 on August 12.

It’s also worth noting that today is not only Antonín Dvořák’s birthday, but it’s also the birthday of the Blessed Virgin Mary, undoer of sorrows, thwarter of death, healer of doubt, spoiler of doom, refuge of anyone who looks death in the face and decides there’s something else they want more.

Psst, Mary, there are some guys I’d like you to check on. Thanks.

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