Requiem (arr. Blackford)
Helena Dix (soprano), Catherine Carby (mezzo), Luis Gomes (tenor), Jihoon Kim (bass), Peter Fry (percussion), Iain Farrington, Anna Tilbrook (piano); The Bach Choir/David Hill; Philip Scriven (organ)
Nimbus NI 6437 79:56 mins
If Verdi had intended to create a version of his Requiem for a pair of pianos, organ and percussions then… However, that’s possibly a redundant thought, given that this is exactly what the composer Richard Blackford has done for the Bach Choir and its musical director David Hill.
Every note that Verdi wrote is there, Blackford tells us, in a version that is intended to have ‘a distinctive soundworld of its own, not a watered-down reduction of Verdi’s original’. That said there are hints of Schubert in the Offertorio; and is that Stravinsky dancing in the fugue that ends the ‘Libera me’?
The organ and the drums have a more Verdian feel to them, with terror at the start of the Dies Irae and the organ standing in robustly for the last trump in the ‘Tuba Mirum’. But the pianos tend to rock and roll in, say, the Confutatis maledictis.
The mezzo Catherine Carby is the most appealing of the quartet of soloists, although in the Recordare you wish she had put some clear vocal water between herself and the soprano, Helena Dix, who never quite displays that spiritual panic at the opening of the Libera me. The bass Jihoon Kim takes a while to ease into his role, while the oddly English timbre of the tenor in the Ingemisco is an acquired taste.
It’s the Bach Choir who have the best of it in singing a magnificent version of the sublime fugue that’s the Sanctus – without accompanying instruments of course!