British composer Patrick Hawes writes in a tonal idiom that occasionally encompasses a post-Romantic lushness. His choral music tends to be reminiscent of John Rutter's, but he likes working on larger canvases than Rutter and his Lazarus Requiem frequently has a cinematic sweep. The work uses the traditional Latin requiem texts (omitting, as many modern requiems do) the more dire movements of judgment. The texts are interspersed with six tableaux using the words of John's Gospel describing the death of Lazarus, Jesus' interactions with his sisters Mary and Martha, and his raising of Lazarus, plus one original poem. The strong narrative structure that the story contributes makes the work come across more as a dramatic cantata than as a requiem. Hawes' writing is thoroughly lyrical and cantabile. Its essential traditionalism is evident in the text setting, which tends to be square and conventional, and in the accompaniments and orchestration, which for the most part provide a gently strumming underpinning. The work receives a terrific performance from the composer leading the Royal Scottish National Orchestra and the Exeter Philharmonic and Cathedral choirs and a trio of topnotch soloists. Hawes writes treacherously high-lying parts for soprano and tenor, and Elin Manahan Thomas and Thomas Walker pull them off with panache. Manahan in particular is dazzling in the bell-like purity and clarity of her voice, and her seamless, soaring legato. Mezzo-soprano Rachael Lloyd is also very fine, singing with richness and warmth. Signum's sound is immaculate and gorgeously full with a warmly enveloping ambience. The album should appeal especially to fans of choral music in the style of Rutter.
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AllMusic Review by Stephen Eddins