The third movement of the Requiem, "Quid sum miser," offers the first example of how Berlioz contrasts the 'public' or 'cosmic' perspective of the last days with the 'private' imagination of the individual soul observing the cataclysmic events. While his orchestral forces are greater than those used by Verdi or Mozart for the 'cosmic' dimension, they are also more minimalist and spare for the 'private' perspective, allowing the ancient words to touch us in an unexpectedly intimate way.
The second movement of the Berlioz Requiem is the "Dies Irae" - Berlioz takes a quite different approach to this iconic text than Mozart or Verdi. Beginning quietly with a unison theme in the basses and cellos, he continues to present new themes layered on top of the old ones until a shattering climax is reach for the "Tuba mirum" - the sound of the trumpet at the day of judgment.
The chapel of Saint-Louis des Invalides – 5 December 1837. The above engraving shows the funeral service for General Damrémont at which the Requiem was performed for the first time. The original copy of this engraving is in the Bibliothèque Nationale de France in Paris. (from the Hector Berlioz Website)
An introduction to the Berlioz Requiem through audio sample comparison of the different approaches to setting the same requiem texts by Mozart, Berlioz, and Verdi. Episode 1 looks at the opening movement: Requiem/Introit.