To the Stars: Sarah Brightman – Requiem

Coming off the hectic, irrelevant Song and Dance, Sarah Brightman’s next step is fortunately more heavenly.

Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Requiem is an interesting entry for a number of reasons beyond Brightman’s inspiring contribution, but she does shine and her voice is permitted a number of opportunities. At times, her soprano surges through the tapestry set by the English Chamber Orchestra and the Winchester Cathedral Choir. Other times, she dissolves into the setting and serves the greater good.

Requiem was recorded over three days in December of 1984 at the legendary Abbey Road in London.

For Lloyd Webber, there could be no more personal piece of art. As a young man, he was entrenched in churches and church architecture. He followed his father’s footsteps, skirting mutiny in order to take up Lloyd Webber Sr.’s adoration for the organ and hunger for creating sacred songs.

When his father passed away in 1982, Lloyd Webber began to play with the idea of honouring his influence. And when he read a New York Times article about a Cambodian boy given the choice of killing his sister or losing his own life, the keystones of Requiem took shape. The voices – a boy, a girl and a man – come from that dark place, but there are no direct Cambodian influences.

Along with Brightman, who supplies the “high soprano,” Requiem features Placido Domingo and youngster Paul Miles-Kingston. The Winchester Cathedral Choir, under the keen direction of Martin Neary, joins the Lorin Maazel-conducted English Chamber Orchestra.

“Requiem & Kyrie” opens with a lovely balance of voices, including second treble Thomas Drew. The upper registry exhilarates and Webber’s composition has marvellous range, permitting Brightman to rise like a phoenix. She blends stylishly with the other voices too, joining the mournful mood tastefully.

If there’s a standout track for Brightman lovers, it would be “Pie Jesu.” Webber includes a portion of “Agnus Dei” that greatly benefits from plucks of harp and a lavish swell of string instruments, while Brightman sings exquisitely and patiently.

Requiem is a recording for meditation and reflection, sacredly and otherwise. It is a notable platform for Brightman and signifies the first truly astonishing instance of what she can achieve vocally.


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