David Bednall – Requiem

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COMPOSERS: Bednall
LABELS: Regent
WORKS: Requiem; O come let us sing; Salvator mundi; Let all the world
PERFORMER: Philip Dukes (viola), David Bednall (organ); St Mary’s Calne Chamber Choir/Edward Whiting
CATALOGUE NO: REGCD327

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 This Requiem by the young English composer David Bednall is structurally modelled on those of Fauré and Duruflé, with the addition of two movements featuring solo viola. In idiom it is much closer to Duruflé, for although Bednall doesn’t directly quote plainsong he acknowledges it is ‘undoubtedly an influence’, and the shape of the melodic writing strongly recalls the use Duruflé made of plainsong in his own masterly setting.

The Chamber Choir (all-girl) of St Mary’s Calne, for whom Bednall’s Requiem was written, phrase the mainly unison opening sections with expert fluidity, and a mature understanding of how plainsong influences the music’s rhythmic movement. There are fine soloists too, Miriam Thiede in the ‘Domine Jesu Christe’, and Rebecca Rothwell in a ‘Pie Jesu’ that stretches into unsettlingly chromatic territory.

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Though Bednall argues that the viola has an ‘important part’ in the Requiem, it’s unclear that it’s organically indispensable, and I wonder if this fine, tuneful work’s potential audience might not be considerably expanded by preparation of an alternative performing edition with viola omitted. Much as the girls’ voices excel in this recording, I’d like to see an SATB version made available, for similar reasons. Terry Blain