4 étoiles du Monde de la Musique -
9 de Répertoire -
John Foulds' A World Requiem was the musical event of mid-'20s England. The work was premiered by the composer leading 1,250 singers and players assembled in the Albert Hall on Armistice Night, November 11, 1923, under the eyes of the Prince of Wales and the auspices of the British Legion and proved a tremendous critical and popular success. Its fusion of symphonic song cycle and Requiem Mass and its message of hope and transcendence resonated with the conscious of the Empire after the horrors of the Great War, and the work was repeated on each subsequent Armistice Night through 1926. Due to a change of leadership in the Legion and the composer's outspoken socialism, however, A World Requiem was not performed on Armistice Night 1927 nor on any other night until this performance -- on Armistice Night, November 11, 2007.
Recorded in stupendous super audio digital sound by Chandos and featuring Leon Botstein leading the BBC Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, the Philharmonia Chorus, the Crouch Festival Chorus, and the Trinity Boys Choir, plus soprano Jeanne-Michèle Charbonnet, mezzo Catherine Wyn-Rogers, tenor Stuart Skelton, and baritone Gerald Finley, it is an awe-inspiring performance. Though the work is a virtuoso piece of writing with no living performance tradition behind it, the soloists, choruses, and orchestra handle the work with total assurance and unwavering dedication. A big part of the credit should go to Botstein, who seems to know the work intimately and love it unreservedly. There's never a second when one doubts the authenticity and integrity of the performance, just as there is never a moment when one questions the emotional depths and spiritual aspirations of the work.
As for the work, it would not be too much to say that John Foulds' A World Requiem is a masterpiece -- a long-lost masterpiece, but a masterpiece nevertheless. With the aid of his wife Maude MacCarthy in arranging the diverse texts, Foulds' created a work rivaling in magnificence of sound and height of ambition such English fin de siècle choral-orchestral masterpieces as A Mass of Life and Elgar's The Dream of Gerontius. The work's melodies are passionately expressive, its harmonies splendidly sonorous, its scoring richly subtle, its forms strong but sensual, and its drama personal but universal. If there was ever a work both of its time and yet timeless, it is A World Requiem.