Composer: Gabriel Faure, Francis Poulenc, Maurice Durufle
Performer: Andrew Brunt, Benjamin Luxon, Jonathon Bond, Stephen Cleobury, Christopher Keyte, Robert King, Choir of St. John’s College
Conductor: George Guest
SPARS Code: ADD
Number of Discs: 2 CD
Format: FLAC (image+cue)
Size: 577 MB
Gabriel Fauré – Requiem, Op.48
01. 1. Introitus: Requiem aeternam – Kyrie
02. 2. Offertorium: Domine Jesu Christe
03. 3. Sanctus
04. 4. Pie Jesu
05. 5. Agnus Dei
06. 6. Libera me
07. 7. In paradisum
08. Gabrel Fauré – Cantique De Jean Racine, Op.11
Gabrel Fauré – Messe Basse
12. Agnus Dei
Francis Poulenc – Mass in G Major
17. Agnus Dei
18. Francis Poulenc – Salve regina
Maurice Duruflé – Requiem
01. Introït: Kyrie
02. Domine Jesu Christe
04. Pie Jesu
05. Agnus Dei
06. Lux Aeterna
07. Libera me
08. In paradisum
09. Maurice Duruflé – Prelude Et Fugue sur le nom d’Alain
Maurice Duruflé – Quatre Motets, Op.10
10. Ubi caritas et amor
11. Tota pulchra es
12. Tu es petrus
13. Tantum ergo sacramentum
14. Francis Poulenc – Litanies à la vierge noire
15. Francis Poulenc – Exultate Deo
This is how I want to hear Durufle’s Requiem.
This is my favorite recording of Maurice Durufle’s Requiem mass. It sounds better with a good organ than with an orchestra, with boys instead of females and with soloists rather than unison voice parts. I realize Durufle intended the solo parts to be sung in unison by the various voice parts in the choir, but composers don’t always know what’s best for their own music.
Mostly, I love the quietness of this performance. There is nothing flashy about it. A common complaint that I have about performances of modern music, in general, is that choirs (especially) tend to become very proud of all the interesting time signature and tempo changes and all the time spent not really in a particular key. Here, the choir sounds like they’ve been singing Gregorian chant their whole lives. The performance is a humble plea of hope borne out of anguished suffering. Many performances of this Requiem become absolutely ethereal, lofty, celestial. This performance cries to Heaven as it kneels, broken in the mud.
10/10. I’d have given it an 8.5 or 9 without the boy’s solo on Pie Jesu. He’s not the best boy soprano I’ve ever heard, by far. But he’s on-pitch, clear and clean, and expresses precisely the right feeling. It’s heart-breaking. Any God who could deny such a plea is no God at all.
Duruflés Requiem and original intentions.
Both Duruflé and Fauré wrote their Requiems for choir and organ first. The orchestrations were afterthoughts bending to the excesses of public appeal and publishers’ demands, at least that’s what I was taught in college. Both works can be wonderful with orchestra and on this CD, the consistently excellent St. Martin in the Fields gives a beautiful interpretation of the Fauré Requem with orchestra. However, on this CD you will find the Duruflé Requiem in the original choir and organ only version, and this, in my opinion, is by far the best way to hear the Duruflé Requiem, this sublime piece of choral music. And this performance is wonderful with a most lush and complex tone from the trebles in the boy choir.
Very English, very French
Spoiler alert: This is a very English rendition of very French music. If you enjoy the sound of George Guest’s St. John’s College Cambridge choir, you’ll love these discs. If you’re expecting the Robert Shaw chorale, keep looking – this isn’t your recording. There are a couple of reasons, trivial in my view, but reasons nonetheless, for not buying this recording. First, it’s fairly old, and some of the technical elements might not be up to modern standards. Second, the Durufle Requiem is the organ-only version. No orchestra to be heard (amazingly, some of the other reviews of THIS recording expressed disappointment over the lack of an orchestra.) Finally, if you want a recording where the engineer decided to stand back, distantly mic everything, and just give you the grand big picture, skip this one. In this recording the choir is right in front of you, sometimes startlingly so.
That being said, this is one of those very very rare choirs that can survive being recorded so intimately, and it really brings the listener right into the music. And into the words. This is the heart of the thing. The hallmark of the very best British choirs is their amazing attention to text. For the vast majority of choirs, the words are their downfall, either through poor execution or sheer indifference. Even for professional choirs that have no problem with the notes, the words, as an afterthought, often undermine the meaning the choir tries to present through the music. And thus it must be for choirs that approach choral music as ‘music with words,’ as strings of meaningless vowels and consonants to be got around in the right way and that’s the end of the story. Much more unusual are the choirs, especially those directed by people like George Guest, Boris Ord, Barry Rose, George Malcolm and David Willcocks, that approach choral music as ‘words with music.’ Given due attention by the singers and conductor, the words actually impart meaning and lend great beauty. The difference is breathtaking in its simplicity and genius.
So I would urge listeners to try to be open to what this recording has to offer. It is different, and very special.