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Gabriel FAURÉ (1845-1924)
Requiem, Op. 48 (1893) [36:01]
Cantique de Jean Racine, Op. 11 (1863-1864) [5:18]
Sandrine Piau (soprano); Stéphane Degout (baritone)
Accentus; Members of the National Orchestra of France/Laurence Equilbey
rec. Basilica de Saint-Cothilde, Paris, France, January 2008.
NAÏVE V5137 [41:21]
Experience Classicsonline

Laurence Equilbey has made great progress in the last few years at improving the quality of choral singing in France. She has even started her own institute to train young singers for future careers in professional choirs. For this she is to be greatly admired, as even just ten years ago, the standards for choirs there were disappointingly low.
It is a bit disheartening then that we get a rather run-of-the-mill performance of two war-horses in this all too brief recording by Accentus and friends. Fauré’s simple and reverent Requiem mass gets performed and recorded rather often and seldom particularly well. Ms. Equilbey gets a fine tone from her chorus, but the recording seems to mask the choir’s sound a bit and we never get to hear a completely resonant production, despite the fine building in which the recording was made. There is certainly nothing wrong with the blend or intonation, but overall, the performance was rather uninspired and seemed to be approached as more of an obligation than a pleasure. Tempos are right on though, and it is a relief to hear this work stripped of the dirge-ishness that some conductors apply to what are some of the most beautifully written vocal lines in choral music.
Fine soloists, particularly baritone Stéphane Degout, whose warm rich and clear tone sails over the orchestra in the Libera me, and is achingly beautiful in the Hostias, give this performance some added bonus points. Sandrine Piau has a fine clear soprano, but her reading of the Pie Jesu is a little too thin and reedy.
The disc is sort of filled out with a nice reading of the popular Cantique de Jean Racine, the only French piece in the repertoires of many English-speaking choirs!
What is left to be understood is why Naïve would issue a forty-one minute disc at full price when there are so many other appropriate works that could have been added. Another performance of Duruflé’s Requiem or motets wouldn’t hurt anyone now would it? Because of its short duration and the above-mentioned qualms, this disc is sadly relegated to the also-rans. Stick with Robert Shaw’s stunning performances of this and the Duruflé masses on Telarc if you want the best bang for your buck.
Disappointingly uninspired performances and far too brief a running time kill this one, sorry.
Kevin Sutton


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