John FOULDS – A World Requiem

JOHN FOULDS (1880-1939): A World Requiem – premiere recording            

Jeanne-Michele Charbonnet, Catherine Wyn-Rogers, Stuart Skelton, Gerald Finley, Crouch End Festival Chorus, Philhamomina Chorus, BBC Symphony Chorus and Orchestra, Leon Botstein.

CHSA 2-SACD set 5058 @ £22 plus P&P

CD reviews…

International Record Review “The marvellous thing about having this rarity available in this present form and in this largely praiseworthy version is that it opens the possibility of re-hearing and of further discovery, and even of further performances. I therefore welcome it wholeheartedly.” 

The Penguin Guide – 1000 Greatest Classical Recordings“…this performance exerts a gripping hold on the listener. The recording is very much in the demonstration bracket.” 

The Guardian“The performance under Leon Botstein, who has become a specialist in early 20th-century obscurities, is very fine. The baritone Gerald Finley has the biggest workload and does it outstandingly well, with exemplary clarity and dramatic presence. He is well-supported by tenor Stuart Skelton and mezzo Catherine Wynn Rogers. The recording is spacious and disentangles the choral lines comfortably.” 

 Gramophone “This present performance, the first in more than 70 years ….  a triumph, with special praise due to baritone Gerald Finley and conductor Leon Botstein.” 

American Record Guide “As a piece of choral music’, Donald Tovey wrote of the World Requiem, ‘it centres its invention on the voices, and uses the richest colours of the orchestra without deviating from its true centre’. That’s exactly how Botstein brings it off.” 

CD notes …

‘It went deeper down and reached higher up, it was bigger, broader, nobler and reached out more into the eternal than music as it is commonly understood and interpreted, or as any music than that heard by the great masters, has ever done. It is indeed a world heritage.’  Thus wrote the Labour MP Frederick Pethick-Lawrence after attending the premiere of A World Requiem on Armistice Night 1923, and his statement was typical of the audience reaction on that night.

Adopted by the British Legion as the centrepiece of its Armistice Night celebrations from 1923 to 1926 at the Royal Albert Hall but not heard since then, the Manchester-born John Foulds’s heartfelt memorial to the war dead of all nations is here revived under the American conductor Leon Botstein in a spectacular recreation of those original Festival of Remembrance performances. With international soloists (Jeanne-Michèle Charbonnet, Catherine Wyn-Rogers, Stuart Skelton and Gerald Finley), massed choirs, the BBC Symphony Orchestra, off-stage fanfares and the great organ of the Royal Albert Hall, this performance presents music on a huge scale.

Very different in nature from Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem of forty years later, Foulds’s A World Requiem is nevertheless a significant forerunner in its deeply pacifist inspiration, its use of mixed, only partly liturgical text, its varied instrumental forces, and its relation to the 1914 – 18 War. Indeed it dared to offer itself as a public statement – as a focus for a national or even an international act of remembrance. Its relation to war is much more direct as it was composed in the immediate aftermath of the conflict. Foulds stated that it was conceived as ‘a tribute to the memory of the Dead – a message of consolation to the bereaved of all countries’, and in its ardent invocation of peace it leans towards the mystical.

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