Delius: A Mass of Life; Requiem

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LABELS: Chandos
WORKS: A Mass of Life; Requiem
PERFORMER: Rebecca Evans, Joan Rodgers (soprano), Jean Rigby (mezzo-soprano), Nigel Robson (tenor), Peter Coleman-Wright (baritone) Waynflete Singers, Bournemouth SO & Chorus/Richard Hickox
This is a major contribution to the Delius discography. It is a magnificent achievement and a deeply moving experience. The major work, A Mass of Life, dating from 1904-5, is a masterpiece. It is not a conventional Mass, but a celebration of life. It is based on more lyrical, less preaching sections of Nietzsche’s Also sprach Zarathustra. The Requiem rejects religion more overtly in favour of living life to the hilt, a pagan philosophy that condemned the work to oblivion for some forty years and overshadowed its considerable merits. Hickox’s readings contain many memorable highlights, including the sublime closing section of the Requiem celebrating the arrival of spring and nature’s promise of perpetual renewal; and, in the Mass, the gloriously uplifting opening choruses in both parts; the orchestra’s evocation of wide perspectives and distant mountain vistas at the beginning of part two; and the magical, affirmatory ‘Midnight Hour’ closing section. Peter Coleman-Wright, the main soloist in both works, is impressively commanding and expressive, and the other soloists shine, especially Rebecca Evans in her long legato lines in the Requiem, while the choirs excel themselves in the wordless choruses at the heart of the Mass. An album to cherish. Ian Lace