Classical composer Rachel Fuller is that rare thing: a female composer who is also relatively well known outside the world of classical music. That is surely down to her reworking of The Who’s seminal rock album, Quadrophenia, into Classical Quadrophenia. That full work had it’s world premiere at the Royal Albert Hall in 2015 and has since toured in Europe and the USA. That album and most subsequent shows were conducted by Robert Ziegler and he is also present, on Rachel’s newest work, the short Animal Requiem. Tenor Alfie Boe returns to his classical singing roots here, featuring on two tracks.
Rachel is a noted animal lover, at one point owning six dogs at once, and since losing these animals decided to write something to honour them, hence the Animal Requiem. Although requiem music honours loss and grief, it also has the power to heal and aid the grieving process. Despite the theme of loss and remembrance, the overriding emotion associated with this piece is peace, joy and thankfulness for the love we shared with our pets.
Animal Requiem begins with the sound of birdsong, a neat link into the animal theme and the ending, bonus song, ‘Blackbird’ with Paul McCartney. The music is beautifully performed by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and the Chamber Choir of London and reminds the listener of the power of classical music. Traditional music and hymns are reworked and do work; understated when necessary and bounding out into a full sound when the moment demands. This is how orchestral works are meant to sound.
The choral parts of this album are spectacular but ‘Psalm 142′, ‘Agnus Dei’ and ‘Pie Jesu’ take the thirty six minutes of music to sublime heights. I’m a lover of voices more than instrumentals so I may be biased but Alfie Boe and Katy Batho rise to the challenge of the music with ease and bringing home the emotion. They both pack a vocal punch. Animal Requiem was premiered in London in January and both singers sang without amplification and both soared above the orchestra and choir – a very special, intimate concert for the audience that night.
All music has the power to move listeners in some capacity and this requiem is no different, honouring those we love and lose, whether animal or human. If you enjoy classical music or are new to the genre, then either way, this is a good piece of music.
Animal Requiem was released on March 8th on Wistle records. Get your copy here.
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