Bob Chilcott: Requiem

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Bob Chilcott
LABELS: Hyperion
ALBUM TITLE: Bob Chilcott: Requiem
WORKS: Requiem; Salisbury Motets; Downing Service; Pilgrim Jesus; The nine Gifts; Jesus Springing
PERFORMER: Laurie Ashworth (soprano), Andrew Staples (tenor), Jonathan Vaugn (organ); The Nash Ensemble, Wells Cathedral Choir/Matthew Owens

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Can something be too beautiful? It’s a thought that struck me occasionally, listening to Bob Chilcott’s new Requiem, of which this is the first recording. The Introit and Kyrie stretch to over nine minutes, and there’s plenty of fluid writing for the choir and two excellent soloists, whose interaction produces ravishing textures. By the end, however, I felt over-cosseted and in need of aural roughage.

To some extent it’s there in the more unsettled harmonies of the Offertorio, and the greater intensity of movement six, ‘Thou knowest, Lord, the secrets of our hearts’. But the ‘Pie Jesu’ is predictably soft-focus, though creamily sung by Laurie Ashworth, with soothing choral contributions. The effect is dangerously meditative. The Sanctus and Benedictus are briefly chirpier, but the Agnus Dei relapses into innocuous pastoralism, complete with dreamy oboe solo. Overall, the work needs more variety of mood to sustain its 40-plus minutes.

Of the shorter works, the clamorous Hail, star of the sea most radiant and the clarion calls of Pilgrim Jesus are particularly enjoyable, and show a more extroverted side to Chilcott’s musical nature. The Wells choir attacks both pieces with evident relish.

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Terry Blain