Contrasting yet complementary, this is guaranteed to draw you into reflection.
Charlotte Gardner 2012
As album titles go, that of the Gabrielli Consort's new disc doesn't strike a desperately cheery note, and Paul McCreesh's reasoning that death is “a central and inescapable truth, for every generation,” is no more mirth-inducing.
However, as McCreesh points out, there's a vast array of wonderful sacred music devoted to the passing of life. Indeed, his exploration of how different composers within the English choral tradition have dealt with the subject of death across the centuries is a curiously life-enhancing recording, and certainly worthy of making the effort to suppress our 21st century penchant for pushing death under the carpet until the last possible moment.
This is partly because the music of British composers tends to deal less with the final day of judgement and more with the transience of our lives and the Christian optimism as regards the afterlife. It's also because McCreesh has put together a glorious programme. Contrasting yet complementary, it is guaranteed to draw you into reflection whatever you think of religion itself.
The programme opens with Gibbons' Drop, Drop, Slow Tears, paired with Walton's A Litany. It finishes with Parry's Lord, Let Me Know Mine End. Within, Tudor music such as Morley's Funeral Sentences sits alongside later works such as James MacMillan's response to the 1996 Dunblane massacre, A Child's Prayer. The longest work and the original starting point for the programme, is one of the most deeply moving works in the English sacred canon, Herbert Howells' Requiem.
The performances themselves don't disappoint either. Expressive, emotive, switching easily between the styles of the various centuries, there's also a satisfying avoidance of any soft-focus delivery intended to up the emotional ante, particularly in the Requiem.