Tunisian oud master, vocalist, and composer Dhafer Youssef is globally renowned for his restless musicality. He has used his ancient instrument – five millennia and counting – to explore jazz, classical, and blues, in addition to the classical and folk musics of the Middle East, North Africa, and Mediterranean regions. The ephemeral Birds Requiem is his debut offering for Sony's resurrected Okeh imprint. The players on this date include his trio with pianist Kristjan Randalu and trumpeter Nils-Petter Molvaer, and the complete ensemble (which recorded primarily in Sweden) features clarinetist Hüsnu Senlendirici, bassist Phil Donkin, drummer Chander Sardjoe, and electric guitarist Eivind Aarset, which also provides various electronic treatments.
Recording a piece like the Verdi Requiem in the Barbican presents various technical challenges. Scored for very large forces, it pushes to the limit the number of people you can fit on the stage. It is a work with an enormous dynamic range. Maestro Noseda, with this performance, teases every decibel from barely audible to almost ear-shattering climax. Representing that in a recording is a challenge, but one that our experienced team of engineers at Classic Sound was more than capable of overcoming.
As a composer of sacred music, Bob Chilcott has found his own niche by writing accessible choral works that speak to contemporary sensibilities. As has been noted frequently, his Requiem evokes Gabriel Fauré and Maurice Duruflé, mostly through its gentle feeling and serene melodies, though without imitating their style or content. Rather, it has its own mix of somber harmonies and fluid, chantlike lines, and the expression of the work is a little cooler and darker. Chilcott's music admits occasional and mild dissonance, though the orientation is strongly modal and the harmonies always feel like a natural result of the counterpoint. Chilcott's Salisbury Motets, Downing Service, and three shorter pieces share the same modern Anglican style, which is approachable and easy to follow. The Wells Cathedral Choir, under the direction of Matthew Owens, sings with a pure tone and clear diction, and the sound of the recordings is quite resonant, thanks to the responsive acoustics of the Cathedral of St. Andrew.