It is good to have a digital ‘organ only’ version
of Duruflé’s sublime Requiem in the catalogue. Whilst
I am of the opinion that the ‘middle’ version (for chamber orchestra)
of the three he made is probably the best, as it combines his
masterly orchestral colour with the required intimacy, there is
much to commend this BIS disc. You may miss the extra range and
variety the orchestra brings, but you will find a wonderful delicacy
and subtlety here that are captivating. The restrained, meditative
quality at the heart of the work are fully realised in this recording,
and where drama is called for (as in the Domine Jesu Christe,
where the organist literally pulls all the stops out) you get
it. Though basically modelled on the Fauré, I’ve always
considered Duruflé’s Requiem to be one of the 20th
Century’s great works, a piece full of its composer’s sincerest
hallmarks and one which flies in the face of any modernist gimmicks.
Given the organ version is something of a rarity nowadays, this
BIS disc is well worth acquiring even if you have the more standard
versions. The choral contribution is first-rate, with excellent
balance and intonation, and the organ is played with great flair
and virtuosity by Mattias Wager. Soloists are good too, with no
operatic wobble to spoil proceedings.
The unaccompanied Quatre Motets are regular
fillers for the Requiem, and gorgeous little miniatures
they are too. This reading can hold its own with any (I compared
it to versions by Matthew Best’s Corydon forces and James O’Donnell
and his Westminster Choir, both on Hyperion) with pitch rock-steady
and a good blend of ecstasy and wonderment. The ‘Cum jubilo’
Mass shares many of the Requiem’s qualities, and the choir
and conductor here follow the beautifully flowing, plainsong-inspired
lines with an almost improvisatory abandon that is both thrilling
and subtly atmospheric.
The recording tames the resonant acoustic well,
though microphones sound as if they have been quite closely placed.
The organ is very well caught. Lovers of church and choral music
will no doubt have their favourite versions of this music, but
this excellent BIS reissue will sit alongside them very nicely.