The work will be recorded for Nimbus Records shortly after the first performance and released in October 2019. The London première will be on Saturday 19 October 2019 at the Cadogan Hall. The St Alban’s Choral Society will perform it in the Cathedral and Abbey Church of St Alban, Hertfordshire on Saturday 25 April 2020 with Orchestra Nova under Georg Vass to celebrate the Chorus’s 75thanniversary.
The Story Behind The Music
At the core of Richard Blackford’s Pietà is a setting of the Stabat Mater; but it also includes two poignant poems by the celebrated Russian Anna Akhmatova from Requiem. The poems echo the words in Stabat Mater reflecting the grief of a mother for her son Lev, a student at Leningrad University, who, in 1938, at the height of Stalin’s terror, is arrested in his dormitory room and shipped to an Arctic labour camp. For 17 months his mother waited in queues and wrote letters to police officials beseeching them to tell her the fate of her son. Her struggle is immortalised in “Requiem”, her most famous work. Alternating between elegy, lamentation and witness, it culminates in its most famous stanza:
For seventeen months I’ve been crying out,
Calling you home.
I flung myself at the hangman’s feet,
For you my son, my horror.
The music embraces the passion of these words. After a recent workshop when the Bournemouth Symphony Chorus studied the work for the first time, conductor Gavin Carr wrote: “It is so compact, and so powerful: the intensity is incredible, and the release at the end is remarkable.”
A presentation from Richard Blackford about Pietà can be viewed here: