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In thinking about his setting of the Stabat mater, a joint commission by Bournemouth Symphony Chorus and St Albans Choral Society, Richard Blackford was inspired by the raging grief expressed by Anna Akhmatova when first her husband and then her son were arrested by Stalin’s KGB. Blackford inserted poems from Akhmatova’s Requiem between some of the liturgical movements as a counterpoint to what he saw as the more resigned suffering of Mary the Mother of Christ, and entitled the resulting short cantata ‘Pietà’. Blackford’s compositional style is conventional but his skilful treatment of the familiar text is inventive and moving, particularly in its use of children’s chorus and solo saxophone. The adult chorus could do with a bit more heft, but the soloists and orchestra are excellent, and the recording is a valuable showcase for a work that deserves to enter the repertoire.

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