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I recently sang, and separately listened to a performance of Duruflé's requiem. While listening, I was struck by the last chord of the in Paradisum, which adds an unexpected note half way through (and even wondered if Duruflé was hinting at an afterlife).

I don't have the score, but located a YouTube video that has a reduced score accompanying a recorded performance. I think the final chord is a dominant 7th in B major (notes F#, A#, C#, E), which gets supplemented by a G# on the last three beats of the piece. I think it is the G# that is particularly interesting.

Reduced score of last bars

My questions:

1) Is this anything unusual? or is this just typical for the era in which the music was written?
2) If there is something unusual here, has it been commented upon previously; has it been interpreted somewhere?

Thanks for any info!

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It's undoubtedly a beautiful moment!

The chord is what we call an F♯9. These "extended tertian" chords (chords that have 9ths, 11ths, or 13ths) will also have the dominant seventh added to them. So this is an F♯ triad (F♯ A♯ C♯) with both the dominant seventh (E) and the ninth (G♯). Contrast this chord with an F♯add9, which would not have the dominant seventh (E).

I wouldn't say it's unusual. Duruflé lived from 1902 to 1986, so he was firmly in the 20th century. Before about 1900, composers would end pieces on consonant sonorities, but after about 1900, composers starting treating dissonances (like seventh and ninth chords) as comparatively stable points of repose. This piece was written in 1948, so it's pretty standard to see a piece written mid-century that ends on a ninth chord.

As for interpretation, I think you're right on the money. It's a half cadence (or in England, an "imperfect" cadence); the last chord really begs to be resolved to B, but we never get it. To me it's a clear hint towards what's awaiting us "after the end."

  • An imperfect cadence. – Tim Jun 6 '18 at 15:44
  • @Tim Wow, I can't believe I forgot to put that in there; thanks! In the US we call it a "half cadence." – Richard Jun 6 '18 at 17:28
  • @Tim: So in this case it's a II-V imperfect/half cadence? Thanks for pointing this out. (I see wiki mentions that weak cadences call for continuation, echoing the comment in the answer above). – Anthony Quas Jun 6 '18 at 21:00
  • @AnthonyQuas Yep, but more than that, the ii is major and built on the lowered second scale degree; we call this a Neapolitan. (Although this one is in second inversion and also has an F♯.) – Richard Jun 6 '18 at 21:02

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