While he was in Vienna between 1859 and 1864, a friendship developed between Cornelius and the poet Friedrich Hebbel (1813-1863). For Cornelius, the close relationship with Hebbel was as important for his years in Vienna as his friendship with Wagner. Upon Hebbel’s death, Cornelius set his poem Requiem
(‘Seele, vergiß sie nicht’) to music, for SSATBB choir, thereby creating one of the composer’s most personal, profound and intense musical expressions. As with other compositions, Cornelius reworked it, putting it in final form in the summer of 1872. The final version is the most extended choral work of his mature years. Hebbel’s work is a brief poem about the importance of remembering the dead, which Cornelius extended by repetitions of each line. The opening in B flat minor, with its chromatically rising line in the sopranos and striking dissonances and chordal progressions, is one of Cornelius’s most radical passages, not unlike sections from some of Liszt’s late works. The varied treatments of the ‘gesture’ (one is hard pressed to call it a theme) in the first section are largely homophonic – this contrasts with a lively and imitative second section. The opening phrase returns at the end to round off the form and to end the composition in a calm, introspective mood.
from notes by James Deaville ę 2000