Gregory Spears: Requiem

Album review
Gregory Spears: Requiem

Gregory Spears


Label: New Amsterdam
Media: CD
Genre: Classical

Spears is no compositional Caspar Milquetoast; he writes biting, exotic harmonies and, like Stravinsky, draws forth a beauty at times rough-hewn or violent. If I had to make a comparison, I’d say his Requiem is like a grotesque Ceremony of Carols. Spears places bizarre Breton lyrics among the traditional Introit, Agnus Dei, Kyrie, Libera Me, and Lux Aeterna prayers, and takes the mood of the piece from those folk texts—hens pissing on perches, and the like. It’s scored for six singers, harp, troubadour harp, electric organ, viola, recorders, and chimes. The harmonies glint like diamonds turning in the light: I particularly relish the instability of the major and minor chords washing against each other, spiced with pungent dissonance and polytonality. The opening of ‘Cigne Ie Suis de Candeur’ (I Am a Swan of Purity) resembles something by (the Bulgarian folk choral group) Le Mystère des Voix Bulgares. The harps are aggressive, sometimes angry; many passages, especially the Breton ones, grab you rather roughly. Corpus Christi Church (in New York City) sounds like a crypt: the cool, dark ambience adds to the Medieval feel. It’s a captivating 37 minutes.

More Info

  • primary artist, Gregory Spears
  • CD

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