A significant disc including two Fauré world premiere recordings.
The Danish firm ClassicO have been working away unobtrusively and
building up a distinctive catalogue. The company founder, Peter Olufsen,
has founded the firm on the bedrock of a classical mail order club active
in Denmark and Germany. The catalogue is distinguished by some extremely
distinctive issues. These include a collection of Rued Langgaard piano music
and (soon to be released and, I hope, reviewed here) Niels Viggo Bentzon's
massive piano sequence Det Tempererede Klaver. French music has been part
of the picture from early on with three discs by the same orchestra and conductor
as above, focused firmly on largely neglected French music from 1850-1950
month). I have the highest hopes that they will be tempted to tackle
Ropartz's Symphonies 1, 2, 4 and 5. In addition their British Symphonic
Collection series (Munich SO/Bostock) promises to bring us many premieres
of fabled works from the British musical renaissance.
This disc has its peaks and troughs. It is in familiar territory with the
Requiem and in front of withering competition. The authentic harmonium marks
out the recording as a world premiere and will make it a 'must-have' for
The artistry is beyond most challenges although they use an off-puttingly
mournful baritone solo in the Requiem. This is a Requiem, true enough, but
I would have expected a little more expressiveness and colour in the voice.
Otherwise the performance is easeful and contentedly reflective, raking over
echoes and pre-echoes of Verdi, Howells, Finzi and Vaughan Williams. Interesting
to note the composer's failure to set the Dies Irae.
The work and performance are intimate in style and the Libera Me is
floated with an effortlessness and taste which commands immediate respect
and affection. The image of a cold church with clouds of condensation rising
from the mouths of the singers is almost tangible. The inevitably tremulous
tone of the harmonium adds an attractive homely dimension in contrast with
so many 'stainless steel' versions on the market.
The Pelléas et Mélisande suite comprises four movements.
The prelude receives a subdued performance without angularity - just a little
characterless. The next movement is much more successful, as is the famous
siciliènne. Both dance along like Ravel's Infanta: innocence,
a light sadness and beauty in equal measure. The final molto adagio
is liturgical and has some of the awkward halting qualities of the first
movement. This version would not be my recording of choice. For that I would
look to the Michel Plasson EMI account. Bostock uses the version which
Fauré expanded from Koechlin's pit band original score. You may not
know that the Maeterlinck play for which this music was written was performed
with this music for the first time in London on 21 June 1898.
The 'dream sequence' is a cycle of three of Fauré's most famous songs
orchestrated for small orchestra and harp. Here the baritone solo (Furio
Zanasi) is much better at colouring the words and adding expression in a
way notably absent from the Requiem. He is still a little soulful but then
the songs for which we have the full texts in French and English are languid
dreams. Mr Zanasi is rather backwardly balanced but the sound is what you
might expect about fifteen rows back in a concert room. The orchestrations
are tastefully in style. The songs are: Rêve d'Amour; Après
un rêve; Aurore.
The Pavane will be well known to some from the version used on British
TV for the World Cup in France in 1998. This has a consistency of atmosphere
with the middle two movements of the Pelléas suite. The recording
balances the choir rather tacitly against the orchestra. This together with
the Sicilienne and the Pie Jesu are among Fauré's most
beautiful gifts to a world which came to a shivering and shuddering change
in 1914. The ClassicO recording is not afraid to celebrate with restraint.
The recording, which is naturally subdued rather than garishly lit, was made
in St Wenceslas Church, Lans-kroun in the Czech Republic.
The 22 page booklet has detailed notes in English only. It gives a considerable
amount of background information. The main notes are by the conductor.
The cover art is by the same artist who contributed the surreal pictures
which adorn the three ClassicO volumes of neglected French orchestral music.
Well worth your investment, then. Shortish on playing time but Fauré
enthusiasts will find much to enjoy in the understatement and the concentration
on fine lines and inwardness which pervade and drifts languidly from these