Top critical review
34 people found this helpful
on 19 October 2008
There is much to like in this modern requiem containing a surfeit of beautiful, nice music that is peaceful, and indeed comforting, in tone. I'm sure that it will be enjoyed by many and that school and church choirs all over the country will soon be singing selections from it - and enjoying them too!
Unsurprisingly, at times the music is a little Lloyd-Weber meets the Vicar of Dibley ('Lead Kindly Light', 'Belief', 'Do not stand at my grave and weep') but it is certainly pleasant enough and occasionally the singing thrills as in the innovative 'Revelations' both mixing a medieval yet modern feel. The 'Recordare' is a beautifully poignant combination of latin text and Phineas Fletcher's early-17th century sacred verse Drop, drop, slow tears and its simply exquisitely sung by Natasha Marsh. It works extremely well and is my favourite piece in the Requiem.
The problem I have with all of this is the composer's stated aim to provide "a modern Requiem... that acknowledges the terrible, unbearable loss and emptiness that accompanies the death of loved ones, a loss that is not easily ameliorated with platitudes about the joy awaiting us in the afterlife." I'm not at all sure that, in the round, he's actually done this, particularly in what I can only describe as a disfunctional "Dies Irae" where the latin text is coupled with "In Flanders Fields". In my opinion this completely fails to do justice to both texts and indeed to the imagined horrors of hell or the real horrors of the modern battlefield. The "Dies Irae" is traditionally the most powerful and terrifying piece in a traditional requiem for a very good reason. It represents the pain and horror of death and judgement precisely because this is a reality in the experience of the bereaved which must be faced and endured before one can work through grief to find peace, solace and salvation.
My overall feeling after listening to "Eternal Light" several times is certainly one of peace but only because I think its dodged the main issue and gone, dare I say it, for musical rather than doctrinal platitudes. Its certainly worth buying as it contains, individually, some very nice pieces, but for a better modern requiem try Preisner's Requiem for My Friend.
I don't like the saccharine-sweet dibleyesque hymns ("Lead Kindly Light", "Love Divine" and "The Lord's My Shepherd") but school choirs will probably like them. The last two are additional 'bonus' tracks to the Requiem as is the final, amazing and extremely moving, setting of "Spared", a poem written by Wendy Cope about the devastating attack on the World Trade Centre in New York on 9/11.