Timothy Hamilton / Cantoribus

Timothy Hamilton: Requiem

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Timothy Hamilton: Requiem Review

by James Manheim

Timothy Hamilton's Requiem mass is not neo-Romantic, nor neoclassic: it is a work in pure late 19th century style. What you'll think of it may depend on your attitude toward the style in general, but, this said, the work treats its text in an original way and does not have the flavor of slavish imitation of anything or anybody. Start with the performance itself, with Hamilton himself conducting the Rosenau Sinfonia, a festival ensemble, and the composer's handpicked choir Cantoribus. The ad hoc nature of these forces, gathered for the live premiere of the work in 2015 and reassembled for this recording a few days later at the acoustically impressive St-Jude-on-the-Hill Church, allows Hamilton to avoid the weight of the British choral tradition and shape the music to his own needs. And so he does: his choral sopranos ripple with vibrato, and his fine quartet of soloists is positively operatic. The performance reflects a great deal of care. Marking the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of World War I, this is a requiem mass with no "Dies irae," but with a distinctly military "Libera me." The overall mood is calm, contemplative, and often evocative of the silence of the battlefield after a clash. English texts -- Psalm 91 and an opening poem by Isaac Watts -- and an orchestral interlude called "Lest We Forget" are added in place of the missing "Dies irae." Whatever your overall view of the music's conservatism, you're likely to find that it holds together in fresh ways. Recommended.

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