When Gabriel Fauré died on 4 November 1924, it was one of those bittersweet coincidences that his most famous composition was also the most fitting piece for his own funeral - his Requiem. His teacher Camille Saint-Saëns saw the work as a lasting legacy, the composer's signature piece: "just as Mozart's is the only Ave Verum Corpus, this is the only Pie Jesu" he said, referencing the work's popular soprano aria.
Although it's unclear what prompted Fauré to begin work on the piece, it may have been a response to the death of his father just a year or so before he began writing in 1887. "Everything I managed to entertain by way of religious illusion I put into my Requiem", he said, "which moreover is dominated from beginnning to end by a very human feeling of faith in eternal rest".
Judging by the popularity and regular performance of the work today, Camille Saint-Saëns was indeed correct. What's surprising is the Requiem's frequent appearance in film soundtracks, from the famous to the obscure. In Paradisum tops the tables as the most heard movement in a soundtrack - from The Thin Red Line and American Beauty to more surprising uses in 28 Days Later and most recently Angelina Jolie's Salt.
Discover the choral music by one of Fauré's talented contemporaries with our feature on Anton Bruckner, whose Requiem in D Minor makes for an interesting contrast.