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Return Us Our Children? is by any account a major, evening- length work from John Muehleisen. It explores the horrific price of war from the viewpoint of the families left behind at home: specifically, the loss of Rudyard and Carrie Kipling’s son, John, during the first world war. By subtitling the work ‘A Kipling Passion’, comparisons with Bach’s examples in the genre are invited. The principal soloists play the named Kipling characters, as they would in Bach’s telling of Christ’s Passion, while the chorus not only takes a turba role but also comments on the narrative in the manner of a Greek chorus. When they relate chronology, one is momentarily reminded of John Adams’s ‘documentary’ approach (though not musically). Muehleisen’s score embraces an eclectic range of musical manners and styles: baroque recitative, Anglican chant, folksong, Elgar’s inflated nobilmente music, soldiers’ songs, military fanfares, etc. This live recording captures the essence of this piece, with Robert Bode directing a skilful reading from his forces that projects the work’s many qualities. Perhaps the focus on the Kiplings is too specific to bestow on the work the universality of, say, War Requiem or even A Child of Our Time, but nevertheless it movingly conveys the individual human cost of war.

PHILIP REED Read the full review on Agora Classica


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