I regard Akhmatova Requiem as one of the peak achievements of my middle life. Its huge tomb-like structure with the insertions of Russian Orthodox chant give it a grave tone fitting the gravity and tragic passion of Anna Akhmatova’s text. It recalls the scoring of the Donne Sonnets with strings, brass and timpani, but it also has the addition of bells and percussion. It nearly lasts an hour with an enormous role for dramatic soprano and interpolations from the bass soloist. The emotional breadth of the poetry inspired the music, but I feel that the strongly ritualistic structure keeps the music from being truly tragic, however it comes closer than any other piece of mine to the tragic.
I worked at fever pitch on it and on an almost daily basis with Father Sergei Hackel. The Russian text was so precious to me that I didn’t want to get any of it wrong. Gennardi Rodjevensky conducted the first performance at a Prom during which there was a large exodus from the audience. This was surely a rebuff to those critics of my music who find it too easy. Akhmatova Requiem is a tough piece by any standards, and Gennadi later premiered in Moscow where it made a much bigger impression on the audience who were more sympathetic and certainly close in every sense to the austerities that the tragic ethos of the poem imposes.
The recording of Akhmatova Requiem is an integral part of an collectors edition of Akhmatova poetry published by the Limited Editions Book Club, New York.