To be honest, I first
chose this disc to review for entirely
personal reasons. The composerís name
was familiar, so I checked. Sure enough,
his uncle, Herculano, was a brilliant
artist, my fatherís dear friend and
godfather to my sister. Such tiny every
day miracles ...
aside, I listened to the disc on purely
musical terms, and was delighted that
I enjoyed it so much. This is music
well worth listening to and could attract
a wide audience.
The first sounds you
hear are muted heartbeats, like those
you hear on a scan of a baby in the
womb. Simple, basic sounds, yet profound,
for they are the "music of life".
Then the music floods in, full and strong.
Requiem aeternam is particularly
lovely. It is built upon a single, but
beautiful and quite distinctive melody.
It turns round and round, evoking timelessness.
The circular lines seem to float in
eternity, very close to what it must
be like for an unborn baby, floating
in amniotic fluid, oblivious to the
cares of the world. Soloists and choir
blend harmoniously: the orchestration
supporting them with great delicacy.
The mood is moving and tender, yet the
onward flowing figures progress the
line with richness and depth.
The Dies Irae
refers to the day of judgement for all
souls. Here, however, is not fire and
brimstone. There is too much genuine
compassion in this music for that. The
pure, pealing tones of the soprano in
Tuba Mirum plead for Godís mercy,
but the effect is not one of damnation:
the soprano and choirís plaintive tones,
reinforced by harp, sound angelic, as
if the angels themselves, or the souls
of the unborn, pray for forgiveness
and healing. As the soprano sings in
the Recordare, "You who
absolved Mary/And heard the robber/Have
given me hope, too." By vivid contrast
the Confutatis is rapid fire
action, rather like parts of Carmina
Burana, minus the brutal connotations
of the Orff piece. Yet again, the more
powerful theme is the flowing Lacrimosa.
Only God can judge, and he has compassion.
The composer didnít
set out consciously to write a Requiem
for the unborn: he started with other
ideas, then reached a creative impasse.
Only with meditation did he receive
inspiration to write for the millions
of infants lost before birth for whatever
reason. This flash of insight illuminates
the conventional Requiem texts, lifting
the music towards a more personal, original
realm. The unborn have no sins to be
forgiven, so the mercy they implore
is a message of comfort for those left
behind. The Sanctus and Benedictus
reiterate the circular melody of
the introduction, this time with more
definite direction. The sopranoís voice
rises plaintively in Pie Jesu, alone
and poignant, backed only by delicate
writing for harp. When the other soloists,
choir and instruments join in, it is
as if the isolation is resolved, the
pain healed. The music ends with the
opening melody now part of a strongly
flowing river of sound, the choral and
instrumental writing creating a shimmering,
uplifting image of Lux aeterna,
Perhaps it is the gentle
pulse of this piece that makes it so
moving; perhaps it is the delicate scoring
or the melody. I suspect what makes
it work is that it seems to express
genuine emotion and spirituality. It
is truly innocent, as the unborn are,
and thereís no need for flashy effects
or artifice. This recording would make
an excellent gift for anyone mourning,
whether for the unborn or those who
have lived long lives. Yet its primary
message is a celebration of simple goodness
and compassion. As such I hope its appeal
will go far beyond niche circles and
reach the many who might find peace
in its tender sensibility.
is a piece well suited for performance,
even at an amateur level. It doesnít
require huge forces or extreme virtuosity,
yet must be immensely satisfying to
sing and play.