Gabriel FAURÉ (1845-1924)
Messe de Requiem Op.48 (1888 rev. 1893) [35:40]
Cantique de Jean Racine Op.11 (1865) [4:53]
Élégie Op.24 for cello and orchestra (1880) [6:29]
Pavane Op.50 [5:39]
Super flumina Babylonis (1863) [9:57]
Philippe Jaroussky (counter-tenor); Matthias Goerne (baritone): Eric Picard (cello)
Choir of the Orchestre de Paris
Orchestre de Paris/Paavo Järvi
rec. February 2011, Salle Pleyel, Paris
VIRGIN CLASSICS 0709212 [62:45]
There are two novelties here. Firstly there’s the use of a counter-tenor voice for the Pie Jesu in Fauré’s Requiem. The second is that Super flumina Babylonis – a youthful work of 1863 – receives in this performance its premiere recording.
The Requiem is performed in the standard symphonic version first heard in 1901. The orchestral and choral forces are keenly attentive, and Paavo Järvi – once past a rather sticky and over-portentously phrased introductory paragraph – directs with assurance, sensitivity and a fine ear for all-important balance. Chorally things are precise without becoming prissy. There’s good unanimity of attack, fine weight, and an assured control of dynamic variations. It’s very curious to hear the majestic voice of counter-tenor Philippe Jaroussky. He has neither the colour of a soprano nor the expressive purity of a boy treble in this movement. Vocal coloration is thus rather more muted than is ideal, and the impression left is somewhat neutral, despite the inherent quality of his voice; he’s an outstanding musician and I have admired him on disc many times.
Matthias Goerne is the other vocalist, in Libera me, and his is a most efficient and commendable contribution. The organ is well balanced in the final movement – indeed conductor and producers have taken case to ensure that each strand of In Paradisum is heard in appropriate shape. So, this is a good, often engaging and thoughtful performance. I wish, however, that the brass calls in Agnus Dei and Lux aeterna were more heart-stopping.
The remainder of the programme offers gentle pleasures. Cantique de Jean Racine is lovingly shaped and the solo cellist, Eric Picard, is not placed too far forward in the Élégie. As for Super flumina Babylonis I think you’d be hard-pressed to identify the composer; it has an affinity with German romanticism, and some of the writing for solo voices is dramatic, though not florid. At ten minutes in length it doesn’t overstay its welcome. It’s certainly a canny piece of programming to retrieve a work written when the composer was only 18 or so.
Jonathan Woolf
Directed with assurance, sensitivity and a fine ear for balance.

see also review by Guy Aron