PATRICK HAWES: Lazarus Requiem – Thomas Walker, tenor/ Elin Manahan Thomas, sop./ Rachael Lloyd, mezzo-soprano/ Exeter Phil. and Cathedral Choirs/ Royal Scottish Nat. Orch./ Patrick Hawes – Signum SIGCD282, 59:46 [Distr. by Naxos] ****:
As many composers have done in the past, Patrick Hawes does not avoid using the scaffolding of the traditional requiem mass as a means of creative expression. But in this case, with the exception of one original poem, it is the words of the New Testament that are interspersed with the standard liturgical texts in order to create what is essentially a cantata within the requiem. The words are used in such a way as to imitate a passion narrative, only this time for the story of the raising of Lazarus.
It’s quite ingenious actually, and works very well in the overall structure of the piece, actually giving the piece a parodied liturgical feeling, though with the forces required it’s hard to imagine such an activity taking place in a liturgical setting. And though Faure seems to be the inspiration behind the genesis of this work—the notes hint at this without actually confirming it—Hawes does tread fully where Faure only wades, which is into the grittier aspects of the very reality of death and loss. This is not to say that he scorches the heavens with wrath, ours or God’s—he does not—but he does ponder the more difficult questions while not offering any concrete answers to them, which makes sense. The language is tonal, lyrical, and quite lovely.
All forces here are very good, the choruses especially singing with a unified and bold feeling of purpose. The sound is very good, though apparently it was recorded in two separate venues—the Royal Scottish National Orchestra Centre, and Exeter Cathedral, two weeks apart.