John Frandsen: Requiem
30 January 2015
BBC Music Magazine
Danish composer John Frandsen has proven a knack for composing imaginative, community-forging works. His 1999 Now Flashes the White Light of the Spirit was commissioned to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Danish Evangelical Lutheran Church and performed simultaneously in over 100 churches across the country. Frandsen’s Requiem takes on a more onerous challenge. While the work was composed in 2010, Frandsen went on to dedicate his Requiem to those killed in the massacre on the Norwegian island of Utøya in 2011.
Frandsen’s substantial score for large orchestra, chorus and vocal soloists is by turns lavish and somber, electrifying and meditative. Somewhat in the spirit of Britten’s War Requiem, Frandsen blends the Latin text with a series of ‘hymns’ by the contemporary Danish poet Simon Grotrian (enunciated here with unaffected cool by Faorese singer/songwriter Teitur Lassen). The score similarly weaves a deft path between the modernist and antique, with echoes of Tippett and Stravinsky matched by passages of medieval restraint.
The performance is exceptional, with the Danish National Concert and Girls’ Choirs giving a fine account throughout. The disc evokes the complexity of human mortality with neither bitterness nor recourse to the saccharine, but stands instead as a worthy and affecting tribute to those lives lost.