PHILIP CANNON (1929-2016): Lord of Light - a Gloucester Requiem (Iris Dell’Acqua (soprano), Kenneth Bowen (tenor), Graham Titus (bass), Three Cathedral Choirs Festival Chorus, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra; John Sanders (Broadcast Jan. 6, 1981 - stereo), String Quartet (Parrenin Quartet. broad. July 8, 1966 - mono), 5 chansons de femme for Soprano and Harp (Margaret Price [soprano], Maria Korchinska [harp]. broad. Dec. 15, 1966 - mono).
Catalogue Number: 04S064
Description: Cannon's powerful, forty-minute setting of the Requiem Mass was written for the Three Choirs Festival in Gloucester, hence the name. The composer changed the order of the sections and set some parts in English, French and German (most is in Latin) to form a dramatic arc; this is very much a concert work rather than a liturgical setting. A plea for the salvation of humankind forms an introduction, and this is granted in a large, joyous setting of Christe Redemptor Omnium, a plainsong hymn from a tenth century hymn book which concludes the work. This is crowned by the tumultuous pealing of bells, bringing the piece to a majestic and triumphant conclusion. The Dies irae sequence forms much of the central section, and this is as highly dramatic an interpretation as the text has ever received ("like a danse macabre") with virtuosic solos for timpani, and the striking use of cluster chords in both organ and choir - a telling, highly effective exception to the work's otherwise tonal idiom. The very large forces are generously employed with considerable originality, and the work's subdivided, continuous single span is also an unusual feature that contributes greatly to the sense of a continuous dramatic narrative, which adds to the excitement and emotional charge of the piece. The Chansons are little gems, inspired by the composer's fascination with Mediæval France; they evoke traditional folksong with delicacy and lovely vocal writing. The 1964 quartet, by contrast, is an angry work, born of a time of the composer's disillusionment with society and contemporary music. Cannon took a very broad attitude to the resources available to a composer in the furtherance of his expressive aims, but he found the results that this often led to in the 1950s and 60s uncongenial to his æsthetic, and this largely tonal but dissonant and abrasive work sounds like a protest, or as he put it "a personal exorcism".