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Track(s) taken from CDA68020

The peace that surpasseth understanding

First line:
Alleluia. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?
commissioned jointly by the Dean and Chapter of Westminster Abbey and the Ministry of Defence as first performed on Armistice Day 2009
author of text
Romans 8: 35-39

Westminster Abbey Choir, James O'Donnell (conductor), Robert Quinney (organ)
Studio Master FLAC & ALAC downloads available
Studio Master:
Studio Master:
Recording details: February 2014
Westminster Abbey, London, United Kingdom
Produced by Adrian Peacock
Engineered by David Hinitt
Release date: October 2014
Total duration: 5 minutes 6 seconds

Cover artwork: Demeter Mourning for Persephone (1906) by Evelyn De Morgan (1855-1919)
© The De Morgan Centre, London / Bridgeman Art Library, London


'This is an exquisite performance of the Duruflé Requiem, beautifully evoking the inherent intimacy of the version with chamber orchestra and organ accompaniment, yet wielding great power at the climaxes, where the weight of the Westminster Abbey organ comes into its own. The playing of the Britten Sinfonia is superb, Robert Quinney's fluid immensely colourful organ-playing a joy to behold and Roderick Williams a supremely compelling soloist. The Abbey Choir boys occasionally sound pressured (as in their exposed divided 'Christe eleison') but for the most part this singing is simply divine, and James O'Donnell moulds and shapes every moment with infinite care, the chant-infused lines dovetailing impeccably … as a beautiful listening experience it is in a class of its own' (Gramophone)

'This disc offers a stimulating programme, beautifully performed and very well recorded. The choir is on excellent form and the soloists drawn from its ranks also deserve separate commendation, helping to make this a fine contribution to this year’s remembrance observations' (International Record Review)» More

'This is a powerful performance and the four massive organ chords towards the end, representing the Four Angels before the Throne of God, give a wonderful sense of theatre within the resonance of the Abbey’s acoustics' (Cathedral Music)» More

'The soberness of the Westminster singers catches the essence of the music: a language derived from Fauré, but reined in by a truly ingenious use of plainchant, which is distributed through the texture in a manner worthy of the greats of the Renaissance' (AllMusic, USA)» More

‘A Western Christian tends to aspire to God … whereas the Eastern Orthodox Christian is already aware of the divine presence … Even in composers like Victoria or Palestrina, there is always aspiration. But if you listen to the music of the East, somehow the divine is already there.’ In these words Sir John Tavener also summed up the appeal of his own music, music which touched hearts all round the world when his Song for Athene was sung at the funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales, in Westminster Abbey in 1997. And his own memorial service was held there in June 2014, six months after his untimely death on 12 November the previous year. Dedicated to the Fallen of both World Wars, The peace that surpasseth understanding was commissioned jointly by the Dean and Chapter of Westminster Abbey and the Ministry of Defence, and premiered on Armistice Day 2009.

‘In this setting of Saint Paul’s great statement,’ Tavener said, ‘I have tried in a simple and primordial manner to suggest majesty, solemnity and a radiance of peace and bliss. I have also given the music a ceremonial nature by inserting ‘Alleluias’ sounding from Heaven (semi-chorus), gradually rising in pitch until they are answered by ‘Alleluias’ from the World (main choir). The music forms a gradual crescendo reflecting the meaning of the words. At the musical and spiritual climax, the full organ sounds four chords which represent the Four Angels before the Throne of God. The final chord then transforms into the sacred monosyllable ‘OM’, which hums around the building, representing the Peace and Beatitude of God’s Presence.’

from notes by David Gammie © 2014

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