Richard Blackford - Mirror of Perfection and Choral Anthems

Richard Blackford is one of the pre-eminent concert and media composers of the UK. His music has been performed and broadcast all over the world and has been featured in the Adelaide, Cork, Montepulciano, Brighton, Cheltenham, Long Island and Berlin Festivals. His feature film credits include City of Joy, Prometheus and Song for a Raggy Boy, the latter winning eleven international film festival awards. He is the most performed media composer in Germany, having over one hundred and forty drama feature credits to his name for ZDF alone. UK TV credits include the acclaimed BBC BAFTA-nominated drama Fingersmith, A Little Bit of Lippy, Summer Solstice, Ruth Rendell Mysteries, 1940s House, Family, Finding Sarah, Preston Front and Shell Seekers, starring Vanessa Redgrave. In 2008 Richard was appointed the first ever Composer in Association with the Brno Philharmonic, who gave the world premiere of his Violin Concerto.

Both of his critically acclaimed choral works Mirror of Perfection and Voices of Exile were the subjects of television documentaries and have been frequently broadcast on Classic FM and BBC Radio 3. September 2011 saw the premiere of another major choral work Not In Our Time, commissioned for the Centenary of the Bournemouth Symphony Chorus, at the Cheltenham Music Festival. It was subsequently performed to great acclaim in Chicago in 2012.



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"There are some fine works on this disc, in particular the beautiful Mirror of Perfection, which I am glad to have got to know. The recordings made in the Winter Gardens, Bournemouth in 1997 (Mirror of Perfection) and St Paul’s Church, Knightsbridge in 2012 (Choral Anthems) are excellent and there are full texts and translations."

A clue to the age of this recording is in the credits: this is one of the last made by the much-lamented Bournemouth Sinfonietta, sent to the wall by spending cuts in 1999. Their fine playing in Richard Blackford's plangent Mirror of Perfection only serves to highlight what the south west lost when they disbanded. Blackford takes the delightful, little-known poetry of St Francis of Assisi and builds a powerful cantata of great lyrical beauty, enhanced here by Ying Huang and Bo Skovhus, who exploit his ravishing solo melodies to the full. We spring forward to today with the BBC Singers and a set of Blackford's muscular anthems that includes a beguiling Christmas hit: A Lullaby of the Nativity. Stephen Pritchard, The Observer

"This is a beautiful collection of seven canticles and five choral anthems. Collectively these exquisite works bring a heart-lifting message of hope in the midst of despair." Thelma Shaw, FRMS Bulletin, Spring 2014

On the evidence of this CD Blackford’s music is technically accomplished, tuneful, very accessible and makes an immediate impression on the listener: all these are qualities which surely any composer needs if they’re to write effectively for the stage or the screen as Blackford does. Mirror of Perfection is the title of a biography of St. Francis of Assisi (1181-1226), written by one of his companions, Brother Leo of Assisi, shortly after the saint’s death. The texts selected by the composer are seven poems by St. Francis which are sung in Italian with the exception of the fifth poem, ‘Canticle of the Birds’, for which a nineteenth-century French translation is used. The music is lyrical, unfailingly attractive and it seems to me that Blackford’s music fits the words very well. Blackford writes well for voices and the chorus parts sound rewarding. The children are involved in the fifth and seventh movements and they do well, singing with fresh, clear tone and in a most appealing way. The orchestral writing is skilful, colouring the score very nicely even though Blackford has been quite restrained in terms of the forces employed. In short, this is a very pleasing work which I can imagine would appeal to other choirs. The performances of these anthems by the BBC Singers are as expert as you would expect from this ensemble and Iain Farrington’s organ accompaniments are excellent. I can imagine A Lullaby of the Nativity becoming very popular because this mainly gentle piece for choir and organ is very pleasing. As I indicated earlier the music on this disc is accomplished, accessible and makes an immediate impression on the listener. I enjoyed it and the performances are certainly convincing. John Quinn,

 'Not In Our Time' - a centenary commission for the Bournemouth Symphony Chorus - was premiered at this year's Cheltenham Festival on the 10th Anniversary of 9/11, and explores the concept of religion as a pretext for war with 21st century texts juxtaposed with those of the First Crusade, 1000 years before.

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