Rosner: Requiem, Op. 59 / Palmer, London Philharmonic Orchestra

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Far from being a treatment of the usual Latin, the Requiem of the New York-based Arnold Rosner (1945–2013) sets spiritual and secular texts on death from a number of the world’s cultures, including Whitman, Villon, the Tibetan Book of the Dead, a sutra from Zen Buddhism and the Jewish Kaddish. The work of a young man (Rosner was 28 when he wrote it), this Requiem is both monumental and wildly energetic – but it also encompasses passages of transcendent beauty. His musical language clothes the modal harmony and rhythm of pre-Baroque polyphony in rich Romantic colors, producing a style that is instantly recognizable and immediately appealing. Some of the music was first written for an aborted operatic treatment of Ingmar Bergman’s film The Seventh Seal, where the main character plays chess with Death; in like spirit, Rosner’s Requiem is a major statement of human defiance in the face of mortality, even if its gentle closing pages bring uneasy acceptance.


Arnold Rosner’s Requiem (1973), no exaggeration intended, is one of the great works of the 20th Century. Rosner (1945-2013) was a postmodernist at a time when modernism was unshakable in academic circles. He studied at SUNY/Buffalo—a notorious hotbed: the faculty laughed at him. They were wrong. They couldn’t deal with his love of Renaissance and early music (Dufay especially), his tonality and post-tonal language. Written when he was 28, the maturity and vision is striking. Inspiration for this work was triggered by his fascination with Ingmar Bergman’s Seventh Seal. He wanted to adapt it for an opera, but Bergman refused permission. He began to write it anyway, and some of it appears in the Requiem. His sources include the New Testament, François Villon, the Kama Sutra, Whitman (When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloomed), Dante, the Kaddish, and the Dies Irae. All are set with sensitivity and profound musicality. The London Philharmonic is great, but Ms Hollis’s soprano is wobbly. Helpful notes by Rosner scholar Walter Simmons. Texts and translations. Don’t miss this.

-- American Record Guide (Allen Gimbel)

Product Description:

  • Release Date: September 04, 2020

  • Catalog Number: TOCC0545

  • UPC: 5060113445452

  • Label: Toccata Classics

  • Number of Discs: 1

  • Period: 20th Century

  • Composer: Arnold Rosner

  • Conductor: Nick Palmer

  • Orchestra/Ensemble: London Philharmonic Orchestra, Crouch End Festival Chorus

  • Performer: Kelley Hollis, Gareth Brynmor John, Feargal Mostyn-Williams, Thomas Elwin