The trouble with reviewing Andrew Lloyd Webber's Requiem is trying to compare it to other Requiem's we are all familiar with without doing either work any unjustice. Sure, I hear a definite influence of Benjaimin Britten, perhaps even a little Bernstein Mass, but this is no War Requiem, and comparing it to other settings by Verdi, Berlioz, Faure, Durufle, or Mozart would be useless. Instead, realize this is a work unto itself.
Andrew Lloyd Webber sets the Requiem and Kyrie, Dies Irae, Rex Tremendae, Recordare, Ingemisco, Lacrymosa, Offertorium, Sanctus (Hosanna), Pie Jesu, Lux Aeterna, and the Libera Me sequences of the mass of the dead. Scored for full orchestra (including saxophones), a huge array of percussion (including drum kit), harp, piano, celeste, synthesizer, and organ, this is an orchestration of monumental proportions. The chorus on the recording includes boy sopranos and altos and male tenors and basses along with solos for boy soprano, tenor (Placido Domingo), and soprano (Sarah Brightman). The voices, soloists especially, have extreme ranges (high and low) making this a work requiring virtuosity in the entire ensemble.
As for the music, everyone's perception of death is a different and personal experience, thus, ones idea of "Requiem" music will be completely different from others. You can find some snatches of chant-like material, pure melodiousness, great dissonance, revelry, bombasticity, and prayerfulness in this setting. Andrew Lloyd Webber exploits his talent of creating memorable melodies and uses thematic economy to tie the entire work together. The purity of the boy soprano is announced at the beginning with simple octave and fifth leaps, and frames the work by ending on a similar note. The soloists and their extreme ranges portray great angst and tension, but later turns into jubilation. I truly believe this is a serious work; each section gives a personal visualization of the Requiem text and creates a roller-coaster of ideas. The inclusion of more ethnic/modern drums in some places give the music its own Andrew Lloyd Webber personal spin.
The entire Requiem is rarely performed in its entirety, nonetheless recorded. This CD will probably remain the preferred performance to have until the end of time, and for good reason. It captures the excitement of a premier recording by consummate artists and performers. If you are looking for an interesting, and perhaps revolutionary, choral work, look no further.