JOHN FOULDS (1880-1939): A World Requiem, Op. 60.

Catalogue Number: 02J002

Label: Chandos

Reference: 5058

Format: CD

Price: $37.98

Description: Even in the annals of strange fates that befell notable piece of music, Foulds' World Requiem has a special place. Composed in the aftermath of World War I as a kind of universal lament for the dead of all nations and an impassioned plea on the grandest scale for nothing of the kind to happen again, the work became a staple of the UK Armistice Day memorial ceremonies for exactly four performances, one per year, the last in 1926. It was then not heard until this performance was given last November. The work is enormous in every sense - epic in scope, grand in ambition, and employing huge forces. Foulds' fascination with non-Western musics and philosophies, and his collaboration with his wife, noted Theosophist Maud MacCarthy, on the texts for the Requiem, introduce a fascinating element of hybridism into a piece that is plainly for the most part an extremely impressive extension of the British choral tradition as exemplified by Parry and Elgar. Many of the texts (not all) are explicitly Christian; most of the music is resolutely tonal. Foulds' taste for exotic effects is displayed in touches of masterfully original orchestration and choral textures, and a few quarter-tone colorations, casting strange glowing shadows over occasional phrases. Plainly the composer had a very canny sense of what his intention should be for such an undertaking, and how to achieve it; a work that could appeal to the war-weary everyman of the second decade of the 20th century, emotionally unrestrained and exciting enough not to be dismissed as highbrow, but nonetheless without compromising his own more complex musical and philosophical ideals. Contemporary accounts speak of the public weeping openly at the unabashedly emotional and spiritual uplift offered by the piece, so apparently he succeeded. Knowing the space in which it would be performed - London's cavernous Royal Albert Hall, the acoustics of which become a participant in the performance (as here), he frequently enhances the sense of occasion with spectacular spatial effects, including off-stage ensembles and choirs as well as ingenious choral antiphony, ideal for a multi-channel recording, of course. One can only wonder that a work of this magnificence and originality, coupled to undeniable popular appeal and releüvance to its own time and every decade since, had to wait 80 years for this amply deserved revival. 2 CDs. Texts included. Jeanne-Michèle Charbonnet (soprano), Catherine Wyn-Rogers (mezzo), Stuart Skelton (tenor), Gerald Finley (baritone), Trinity Boys Choir, Crouch End Festival Chorus, Philharmonia Chorus, BBC Symphony Chorus, BBC Symphony Orchestra; Leon Botstein.


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