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ClassicsOnline Home » SPEARS, G.: Requiem (Spears)
Gregory Spears/Requiem/New Amsterdam
A bunch of measures into Gregory Spears new Requiem CD and one thinks one has stumbled upon the Gorecki/Part of the Hudson River. There is huge space in the opening prelude that portrays a composer far more mature than his years. The popish harmonic rhythm almost seems granulated in its snail-like pacing (good thing). Gradually bits of vocal shards float by like dreams of the Renaissance, resplendent with 16th grace notes, glottal attacks, and elaborate pre-melisma. It is music that is at once extremely accessible but is deeper in its mid-Stravinskyish harmonies (another good thing), and edgy, building-about-to-collapse counterpoint.
In the second cut, Requiem Aeternam, the harmonic rhythm goes to human pacing with deceptively dense contrapuntal writing, sounding vaguely like a Renaissance mash up composition. This could also pass for a high-end Renaissance period movie score (yet another good thing). There’s even more creativity in the harmony and the weird overhangs and stretto entries of the counterpoint. It returns to the snail pace harmonic rhythm opening.
The third cut is the first of the secular texts sections, which for me lack the gravitas of the Latin sections (no not Puerto Rico). The performances in the secular sections are seemingly more a capella and because of the singer’s exposure, they lack pitch consistency. Whether this was a singer, budget or time issue, a lot of the harmonic writing is forever switching major/minor thirds and all needs to be nailed down. Where do you tune that third of the chord when voice timbre is such a factor always? It would take an uber-trained group to navigate this difficult music. (By the way that high soprano singing those high Fs is stunning. Her non-vibrato to a very controlled accelerando vibrato gives me goose bumps).
The fourth track, Agnus Dei, starts with an unintended quote from the slow movement of Mahler’s 4th. It's Ligeti-ish in its focus and intensity—throughout this CD there is no cheese or sentimentality in the writing at all. The electronic organ as with the viola has a mysterious, decapitated quality (a headless ghost floating through the music). This, as well as the rest of the instrumental orchestration, at once struck me as very elegant and original. Again, this movement could have used a better vocal performance.
By the fifth and sixth track, I was hoping for more tempo contrast, even though it is again quite gorgeous with its fragments of history floating by. There’s great canonic writing, cool ornaments and a 3/4 dance section, then a single note repeated chime is used to great effect. A lot of the movements seem to end with a longer harmonic rhythm and repeated notes at long intervals.more....
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SPEARS, G.: Requiem (Spears)