reviewed a performance of the Duruflé
Requiem by the very English choir
of Truro Cathedral it’s been interesting
to hear a version by a mixed adult French
choir. The sound that is produced is,
of course, quite different but both
versions are satisfying in their different
ways. As compared with the Truro choir
there’s a greater degree of warmth and
maturity to the sound that this French
choir makes because, of course, it uses
female sopranos and altos, the latter
a crucial difference in the blend.
This French choir is
larger than the Truro choir. It consists
of twelve sopranos, seven each of altos
and tenors and seven basses. Actually,
the recorded balance is such that at
times the organ is a little too dominant
(for example at the climax of the Kyrie)
but in general the balance is perfectly
satisfactory. The singers make a very
nice French sound (sample the singing
of the ladies at the start of the Sanctus)
and, like his colleague at Truro, conductor
Joël Suhubiette adopts sensible
and natural tempi. A good example of
the supple fluency of the choir comes
in the unaccompanied passages in the
‘Lux Aeterna’ (track 7) I noticed what
sounded like a few slight finger slips
early on by organist Michel Bouvard
but he soon gets into his stride and
he contributes well to the performance.
The ‘Pie Jesu’ is sung
by mezzo-soprano Patricia Fernandez,
who produces a pretty full sound (perhaps
a little too much vibrato for some tastes?).
This is surely the sort of sound that
the composer had in mind. In a note
at the front of the vocal score the
composer specifically allows that the
baritones of the choir may sing the
two short baritone solos. I’ve never
actually heard a recorded performance
where this has been done but that option
is followed here and it’s very successful.
The singers sing with absolute unanimity
and a good full sound and vindicate
the conductor’s decision.
So overall this is
a good, fluent and faithful performance
of this lovely work. Short works by
Poulenc and Messiaen complete the CD.
The male voices of the choir give a
fine performance of the Poulenc in which
I particularly appreciated the forward,
very French timbre of the tenors. The
whole choir reassembles to perform Messiaen’s
rapt motet. The singing is well controlled
and the gentle dissonance that underpins
the ecstasy is brought out well.
It must be said that
the playing time of this disc is rather
short. The documentation is in French
only and, assuming I have translated
them correctly, I found some of the
comments in the notes a bit tendentious.
No texts are provided, which is a particular
drawback in the case of the Poulenc
and Messiaen items where the words may
be less familiar to listeners.