COMPOSERS: Bullock,Byrd,Dering,Leighton,Lobo & Stanford,Tomás Luis de Victoria; Bainton
LABELS: Harmonia Mundi
ALBUM TITLE: Requiem: Music for All Saints & Souls
WORKS: Victoria: Requiem 1605 (Officium Defunctorum); O quam gloriosum; Taedet animam meam; plus works by Bainton, Bullock, Byrd, Dering, Leighton, Lobo & Stanford
PERFORMER: Choir of Clare College, Cambridge/Graham Ross
CATALOGUE NO: HMU 907617
The big item here is Victoria’s Officium Defunctorum, composed in 1603 for services memorialising the Dowager Empress Maria of Spain. It’s a long and demanding sing, but this is a marvellously sustained and thought-through performance by the Clare College students.
Its keynote is intimacy and reverence: the Matins Lesson which opens the setting catches movingly the vulnerability Victoria finds in Job’s Old Testament imprecations, while maintaining the fluid forward momentum necessary musically. With the ‘Requiem aeternam’ an element of sensuality enters, leading lines sliding from one section to another with lissom smoothness, text valued for its soothing, consolatory qualities.
Careful but unobtrusive attention is paid to dynamic detail. Hear, for instance, the marginal tapering of levels achieved at ‘The just shall be in everlasting remembrance’, then the brief, tentative swell of confidence which follows at ‘He shall not fear the evil hearing’. The nuancing here is fully assimilated by the singers, and consummately shaped by conductor Graham Ross. Mezzo-soprano Abigail Gostick’s sentient solo work in the Offertorium is also a thing to cherish.
The eight shorter works which start the programme are, perhaps inevitably, a little overshadowed by the Requiem. There is plenty to savour there too, however, especially the funeral motet Versa est in luctum by Victoria’s contemporary Alonso Lobo, where Ross encourages a more explicit, impassioned style of expression in his singers. The church acoustic is sensitively harnessed to the scale of the performances by engineer and producer John Rutter. Overall a firm, enthusiastic recommendation.