Anyone who has ever sung the Rutter `Requiem' gets it in their bones, and it stays there. This may not be the most profound Requiem ever composed, but it is certainly one of the most beautiful.
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.
Abbado's Verdi recordings are some of the finest available and this Requiem recording is no expection. Abbado takes a less ferocious approach than say Muti, or Barenboim, balancing the dramatic moments effectively against the more introspective aspects of the score. Ricciarelli is in fine form here, singing with a fine sense of line and intense emotional declamation. Her intonation is perfect. Verrett blends seamlessly with Ricciarelli, making the most of their duet and capturing the intense sadness of much of the writing quite well. Domingo, in his first recording of the part, provides a steady stream of golden tone, effortlessly produced. His emotional temperature runs about right here - not overly dramatic - after all, this is not Aida - but strong feelings kept on a tight rein. Ghiaurov is phenomenal. His gigantic bass somehow anchoring the entire quartet and chorus into an imposing yet gorgeous Verdian soundscape. There are many excellent Verdi Requiem recordings - this is surely one of the very best.
After the Requiem continued Gavin Bryars' journey away from the more experimental work that made his reputation early in his career toward pieces possessing a more melancholic and romantic quality. In two of the works herein, "The Old Tower of Lobenicht" and "Allegrasco," one can hear echoes of his brilliant composing on the Hommages album. But where the romantic elements were stricter and more crystalline on the prior effort, here there is an expansiveness that sometimes succeeds and at other times verges on kitsch.
Maciejewski consciously set out to write a monumental work which, as he observed, will have the chance to fill an important gap in Polish musical history, which totally lacks large-scale compositions for choir and orchestra.