Bryars: Cadman Requiem; Adnan Songbook; Epilogue from Wonderlawn

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WORKS: Cadman Requiem; Adnan Songbook; Epilogue from Wonderlawn
PERFORMER: Valdine Anderson (soprano); Hilliard Ensemble, Fretwork, Gavin Bryars Ensemble
CATALOGUE NO: 462 511-2
Cadman Requiem was written in memory of Bryars’s sound engineer, Bill Cadman, who was killed in the Lockerbie plane crash, and for the most part it’s a dark, harmonically bare piece. The vocal writing, which is often in unison, is perfectly offset by the plangent timbre of the viols. Bryars sets only part of the requiem text, and interpolates two settings of the seventh-century English poet Caedmon (pun intended): in these there is more rapid movement in the underlying texture, though the harmonies always change slowly. A near comparison might be Arvo Pärt, though Bryars is much more quirky, and you never encounter quite what you expect around the corner. You certainly can’t imagine Pärt setting the love poems in the Adnan Songbook – nor a more sensitive response than Bryars’s. The lyrical vocal lines (beautifully sung by Valdine Anderson) unfold with serenity over an accompaniment of low strings, clarinets and guitars, sometimes sustained, sometimes pulsing gently, sometimes moving rapidly, and always in a state of harmonic flux. Epilogue from Wonderlawn, a meditation for viola and small ensemble is harmonically the simplest work on the CD, but is no less affecting for that. In the booklet notes, Bryars writes of his care in choosing the sequence of music on the CD, and the natural progression from darkness into light makes this a totally satisfying listen from beginning to end. Martin Cotton