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Maurice DURUFLÉ (1902-1986)
Requiem, Op.9 (1947), version for choir and organ
Four Motets, Op.10 (1960)
Missa ‘Cum jubilo’, Op.11 (1966)
Mattias Wager (organ), Peter Mattei (baritone)
Paula Hoffman (mezzo), Elemér Lavotha (cello)
St. Jabob’s Chamber Choir/Gary Graden
Recorded at St. Jacob’s Church, Stockholm, Sweden, Nov-Dec. 1992
BIS CD 300602 [70’56]


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.

Tony Haywood


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