The Prelude is the instrumental introduction to the actual Requiem. It gives a first impression of the different feelings manifested later on in the musical piece, such as anguish, hope, faith, resignation, accusation and despair. The Prelude opens with a solemn organ theme which quickly develops into an ominous cry for help as soon as the strings start to play. The answer is a calm, comforting organ coda.
The theme of the low strings and horns in the following passage indicates repentance and prayer, with a touch of fleeting hope, but ultimately ending in grief and despondency.
Then the first and second theme merge, a theme of grief and a theme of hope and anticipation, expressed by woodwinds and high strings, finally ending in the cry for help from the first section.
The Prelude ends with a reprise of the first organ coda, once more as a sign of solace from the Lord.
Requiem and Kyrie
A requiem is a prayer. A prayer from the living to commemorate the dead. Consequently, the initial theme of the first section - played by flute, clarinet and bassoon - has the character of a shepherd herding his sheep together with his flute. Then the alto - accompanied by the organ - takes over the theme in a solo. ‘Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine, et lux perpetua luceat eis’ (‘Grant them eternal rest, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them’). The choir answers with a hymn for the Lord.