It is symptomatic of
the outrageous neglect of British music
that this disc - a re-release of the
1997 Marco Polo recording of Stanford’s
Requiem and excerpts from The Veiled
Prophet of Khorassan – contains
what is the première, and only,
recording available of both of these
was written in memory of Stanford’s
friend, the painter Lord Frederick Leighton,
a figure well known and loved in the
cultural scene at that time, who had
died earlier that year (1896). It is
a fairly conventional Requiem, using
the Roman Catholic text of the Missa
de profundis, but on a grand scale.
It contains some utterly sublime and
deeply moving music.
The quiet, calm opening
could strike one as slightly dull and
uninspiring, yet it leads to an exquisitely
ecstatic climax three minutes in, when
the choir sing "et lux" and
then the organ and brass come in with
a mind-blowingly grandiose and searingly
beautiful phrase. The music is held
back by the performance here – taken
at a pace that feels far too slow, it
is in need of both propulsion and of
abandon – more fire, more fervour, please!
The choir and orchestra get more into
their stride a few minutes later and
the gorgeously lyrical ensuing section
is slightly less reserved.
is followed by a traditional and classically
beautiful Kyrie, and then a return
to the text "requiem aeternam dona
eis" with the Gradual, before
a stirring and fervent Dies Irae,
which includes some superb singing from
the RTE Philharmonic Choir (listen to
the clout they’re giving it a couple
of minutes in). This is a very operatic
movement – particularly the "juste
iudex" section and the dramatic
"lacrimosa dies illa", and
the orchestra and chorus give vent most
satisfactorily in a moving and highly-charged
performance. The first disc ends with
an exhilarating and deeply passionate
The second disc opens
with the gentle Sanctus – which
includes the beguiling "Benedictus
qui venit in nomine Domini", and
the work concludes brilliantly with
the rousing "Lux aeterna"
in the Agnus Dei .
Leaper is a persuasive
advocate of this piece, and the four
soloists, if not of absolutely top standard,
are still very good. One feels that
they lack panache in places and the
words are not always particularly well
articulated, but they at least attempt
to communicate the spirit of the piece.
The performance as a whole is a little
sugary and insipid, yet the music is
so glorious that this is easily overlooked.
Four excerpts from
Stanford’s first opera – the three act
The Veiled Prophet of Khorassan
- make up the rest of the disc. This
is appealing music if not always desperately
exciting – the Overture and Ballet
Music No. 1 are rather charming.
I find soprano Virginia Kerr slightly
harsh in the rather dreary performance
of the song There’s a Bower of Roses
- a slightly sweeter and more lyrical
voice might be able to bring this song
to life a little more. The Ballet
music No. 2 is more interesting,
lively and fun, with its slightly exotic
It is the Requiem
that one should purchase this disc for.
I am convinced that it should be in
the canon of great requiems, along with
the Brahms, Verdi and Fauré.