MUSIC FOR REMEMBRANCE - Choir of Westminster Abbey - Britten Sinfonia - James O'Donnell (Conductor) - 034571280202 - Released: October 2014 - Hyperion CDA68020

1} Maurice Duruflé - Requiem
2} Ralph Vaughan Williams - Lord, thou hast been our refuge
3} Philip Moore - Three prayers of Dietrich Bonhoeffer
4} Herbert Howells - Take him, earth, for cherishing
5} Sir John Tavener - The peace that surpasseth understanding

At this time of year, with all the leaves down on the ground and the longer, colder nights, our thoughts and feelings inevitably orbit around matters of the heart, especially feelings of loss and the looming prospect of our own mortality. What better time then for a record label to release a collection like this one which brings together choral works that pay tribute to, and remember the lives of the fallen from the two world wars. And what better choir to perform these works then the Choir of Westminster Abbey, in which stands a statue of the martyr Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and where lay the ashes of Ralph Vaughan Williams and Herbert Howells.

The disc opens with an impressive account of Maurice Duruflé's often overlooked and under appreciated setting of the Requiem. A work that sits about halfway between the dark and dramatic settings by Verdi and Berlioz, and the spiritually uplifting Gabriel Fauré setting. It combines the essence of both these perspectives into an emotionally charged and moving version of the Requiem. In this recording, the combined forces which include the Choir of Westminster Abbey, the Britten Sinfonia, organist Robert Quinney, mezzo-soprano Christine Rice and baritone Roderick Williams, all blend seamlessly and produce a sound that seems to drift to you from above, as it should. The recording has been engineered so well as to sit you in the sweet spot of the abbey, and allow the powerful tidal waves of sound, as in the Sanctus for example, to simply roll down the expanse of the church and wash over you. Nothing is spotlit and therefore it all sounds natural. The final In paradisum wraps you in a warm sonic cocoon. A moving experience.

The other pieces are given the same care and devotion, and seem to have been well chosen to complement the Duruflé and enhance its effect. Even the very recent (2009) work by Sir John Tavener doesn't break the mould, stylistically speaking, and its final, barely audible chord, will leave you to ponder, reflect and remember.

Jean-Yves Duperron - October 2014