HOWARD GOODALL: Eternal Light: A Requiem; Love Divine; The Lord is My Shepherd; Spared – Natasha Marsh, soprano/ Alfie Boe, tenor/ Christopher Maltman, baritone/ Choir of Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford/ London Musici/ Stephen Darlington, conductor – EMI 2 15047 2, 56:47 *****:
Howard Goodall is one of the most successful and popular composers in Great Britain, being the author of countless film and television theme scores, musicals, and a host of other choral pieces. I do not know that he has created any classically oriented orchestral scores to this point, which may explain why this orchestral work is not as involved among the instruments as you might expect in a Requiem.
This doesn’t matter a wit though, because we never get the impression that Goodall is incapable of writing for the orchestra in a more involved manner, only that in this case it isn’t required and he doesn’t need to. There is a great economy of means in this Requiem which the composer says is modeled after Brahms but sounds for all the world more in the Faure-Rutter mold. He makes use of the traditional Latin mass far more than Brahms would have ever thought of, but also intersperses various texts like Brahms to “take the edge off” some of the more inherent medievalisms that so mark the great Requiems like Berlioz and Verdi. Goodall says this is more a requiem for the living, to help those deal with loss than any sort of supplication for the departed.
I suppose that is all well and good though it does in the end shift the focus from the situation of the dead to the plight of the living dealing with the loss, something that runs contrary to my own expectations in music of this type. But I can’t complain as this is his method of writing and his philosophy behind it, and the music is delightfully comforting, soothing, and full of hope for both living and dead. Goodall doesn’t spare us any of his considerable melodic genius, and even though there are many times in this piece where I thought “that sounds like a television or movie score” or “wouldn’t that make a catchy theme song”, the overall impression is one of a very considered and serious attempt, and making a piece that falls into a type of classical mindset that has one of the richest traditions in all of music—and he succeeds.
We are also given a few choral pieces that are very nicely done and fine examples of Goodall’s art. Especially moving is Spared, set to poetry by Wendy Cope. It is the composer’s tribute to 9/11, an incident that he just happened to be in Manhattan for on that fateful day eight years ago. Enthusiastically recommended, and the performances are excellent.
— Steven Ritter