Gabriel Jackson: Requiem

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Gabriel Jackson
LABELS: Naxos
ALBUM TITLE: Gabriel Jackson: Requiem
WORKS: Requiem; In All His Works; I am the Voice of the Wind
PERFORMER: Vasari Singers/Jeremy Backhouse
CATALOGUE NO: 8573049

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Soft, consolatory, warmly glowing: that’s the atmosphere created by Gabriel Jackson in the opening movement of his Requiem. ‘Radiantly optimistic’ is Jackson’s own way of describing the work, reflecting a belief that death is ‘the gateway to a better world’.

You don’t have to believe that to relish the sheer accomplishment and virtuosity of the Vasari Singers’ performance. The Requiem’s ‘Epitaph’, setting a Kevin Gilbert poem, would test most choirs to the maximum, with its rapid decoration of monodic theme-threads, slides, stutter-rhythms, and what Jackson calls ‘a pantheistic susurration of nature-sounds’ burbling hyperactively. The Vasaris breast the difficulties confidently, crucially maintaining a full modicum of poise and tonal balance in the process. The spoken voice-over in part of the Lux aeterna made me cringe a little, but may work better for others.

Of the shorter pieces I specially enjoyed Francis Pott’s When David heard, an intense, grief-wracked setting of the Old Testament text mourning the death of Absalom. Here the raw, lacerating emotions of personal loss are laid bare for the listener, in searing harmonies and tight, tensely contesting intervals. The Vasari Singers grip the work with evident relish and commitment, producing the CD’s most potently arresting performance.

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Terry Blain