ALEX WOOLF (b.1995): Requiem.
Catalogue Number: 12W060
Description: This is a powerful and moving entry in the modern requiem genre, instantly approachable in a tonal vocabulary, but original and individual in concept and musical execution. The reduced forces (though professional level soloists would be essential) make it more accessible for performance in a church setting, though it is essentially still a concert requiem, with the dramatic power and emotional content that that implies. The work sets selected sections of the Requiem Mass, omitting the Dies irae sequence, and interpolates three English poems by the Welsh poet Gillian Clarke (b. 1937). The way in which these are treated is in itself remarkable; on the one hand they integrate perfectly into the narrative drama of the work as a whole, while on the other, their chamber settings (the organ reinforces the third), more angular and dissonant than the bulk of the choral sections, place them on a different expressive plane (like the three-tiered architecture of the War Requiem, clearly an influence), and taken in isolation could be part of a powerful song cycle to Clarke's poetry. The overall arc of the work is from despair and sin to hope of redemption, and this provides a gripping dramaturgy, from the supplication in darkness of the opening Introit and Kyrie eleison, through the beautiful, imposing Offertory and Sanctus to the dissonance-enhaloed Agnus Dei and Pie Jesu (the latter's homophonic texture suddenly expanding into heterophonic, rhythmically free bell sounds, one of many examples of Woolf's innovative yet never point-provingly 'modern' choral writing), to the ecstatic ascent towards the ‘perpetual light' of the concluding In Paradisum. Nicky Spence (tenor), Iain Burnside (piano), Philip Higham (cello), Anthony Gray (organ), Alex Woolf (conductor).