Colin Anderson
May 2023

If you are already familiar with Stanford’s Requiem (Opus 63; 1896) then you’ll know what to expect, and you won’t be surprised to learn that Martyn Brabbins leads a fastidiously prepared performance that reveals the music in the best possible way, superbly recorded in Symphony Hall last July by Phil Rowlands with Andrew Keener producing—a defined perspective, good balance, lucid detail, and a wide dynamic range.

Stanford’s is a large-scale setting, seventy-five minutes in this performance, and if the earth doesn’t move too much in the opening of the ‘Dies irae’ (Sir Charles being his gentlemanly self and not trying to emulate Verdi), there is otherwise much radiance and beauty in Stanford’s writing—purity, too—if not without emotion and depth of feeling, which holds the attention, offering succour, especially when achieved with the dedication evident here, the invention immediately expressive—how fresh the University Voices, how charismatic the vocal soloists—and, if the orchestral scripting is conventional it is also accomplished, how responsive the CBSO is to the composer’s classical if subtly descriptive countenance—brassily dramatic in the ‘Confutatis maledictis’, followed by an impassioned ‘Lacrimosa dies illa’, and the ‘Offertorium’ is wonderfully uplifting, angels singing in the sky.

Throughout, Martyn Brabbins’s persuasive tempos and wholesome approach pay many dividends and make the strongest possible case for a score that deserves its place in the limelight that this release now affords it. The comprehensive annotation includes the sung Latin text and an English translation.