The Great American Anomaly unfolded from the voices of the Philadelphia Singers on Saturday in the form of Randall Thompson's Requiem - a hugely ambitious choral work from one of the better composers of the Aaron Copland generation and one that leaped well beyond what a requiem was considered to be in the mid-20th century.
What little performance history the five-movement, hour-long, a cappella piece had after its 1957 premiere was riddled with technical challenges - and, no doubt, questions of what exactly it is. Now, requiems can take many forms other than the traditional Latin Mass for the dead. One can stand back from Thompson's highly personal version and recognize how it achieves heroic stature and startling eloquence without resorting to the fire and brimstone of Verdi and Berlioz. Thompson also has the sort of expressive ambiguity that reveals different levels of meaning in any given listening. This composer's stock may well rise posthumously with wider dissemination of the piece, particularly when it is sung with the authority heard at Holy Trinity Church.