RICHARD BLACKFORD (b.1954): Pietà.
Catalogue Number: 01V066
Description: Blackford's Pièta, a powerful setting of the Stabat Mater, joins the company of highly distinguished modern works based on this most harrowing of Christian texts, notably those by James MacMillan (04S076) and Lennox Berkeley (08S040, 09S051). Like those works, Blackford's is a robust setting - deeply sorrowing as all versions of this heartbreaking text must be, but acknowledging the terrifying content of some of the scenes depicted - the scourging, the Crucifixion itself, the flames of Hell from which the Virgin is entreated to intercede to save us. This last is the prayer's version of the Dies irae, and Blackford treats it as such in the work's final, overwhelming climax. To underline the immediacy of the message of the grieving mother, he interpolates two poems by Anna Akhmatova, from her Requiem. The first has a restless, agitated accompaniment with a motif reminiscent of Shostakovich; the second, her telling of the Crucifixion scene, a glorious a cappella vision of angelic choirs. The text's intense emotions - tenderness, unrelenting grief, utter devastation and horror - make the composer's at times quasi-operatic approach both compelling and appropriate, and his customary tonal vocabulary, eloquent, subtle, and direct, lends itself ideally to the illustration of this powerful narrative. Jennifer Johnston (mezzo), Stephen Gadd (baritone), Amy Dickson (sax), Bournemouth Symphony Chorus, Bournemouth Symphony Youth Chorus, Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra; Gavin Carr.