Stanford: Requiem; The Veiled Prophet of Khorassan (excerpts)

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LABELS: Marco Polo
WORKS: Requiem; The Veiled Prophet of Khorassan (excerpts)
PERFORMER: Virginia Kerr, Frances Lucey (soprano), Colette McGahon (mezzo-soprano), Peter Kerr (tenor), Nigel Leeson-Williams (bass); RTE Philharmonic Choir, National SO of Ireland/Adrian Leaper, Colman Pearce
CATALOGUE NO: 8.223580/1
No wonder Albion was known as ‘Das Land ohne Musik’: Britons forget so much of their best. Stanford’s Requiem is a classic: brilliantly designed on a grand scale, with heart-stopping moments that stand easily beside Brahms, Dvorák and even Verdi. This performance starts haltingly (muzzy chorus, uneasy strings). But what follows enters the blood: superb orchestral brass and woodwind, increasingly relaxed soloists. The Requiem aeternam is melting; Stanford’s varied, unusual ‘Dies irae’ includes a show-stopping vocal quartet with strings; dramatic bass solos, alto aria and tenor-bass duets are all admirable; key fugal links very nearly come off superbly. Gerontius eclipsed Stanford’s Requiem: the Hale-Bopp comet has brought it back. Shame on its intervening demise. The filler is full of amiable nothings. Tracks should have been better subdivided. Roderic Dunnett