Maurice DURUFLÉ (1902-1986)
Complete Organ Works, Motets, Requiem
CD 1
Requiem op. 9 [37:17]
Méditation [4:04]
Quatre Motets sur des thèmes grégoriens op. 10 [7:44]
Prélude et fugue sur le nom d’ALAIN op. 7 [12:31]
CD 2
Fugue sur le theme du carillon des heures de la cathédrale de Soissons, op. 12 [3:52]
Prélude, adagio et choral varié sur le thème du Veni Creator, op. 4 [20:36]
Prélude sur l’Introït de l’Épiphanie, op. 13 [2:12]
Scherzo, op. 2 [6:01]
Chant donné - hommage à Jean Gallon [1:59]
Suite, op. 5 [23:35]
Bo Skovhus (baritone), Randi Stene (soprano), Henrik Brendstrup (cello), Kristian Krogsøe (organ)
Aarhus Cathedral Choir, Vocal Group Concert Clemens/Carsten Seyer-Hansen
rec. May 2010, February-April 2012, Aarhus Cathedral, Denmark.
DANACORD DACOCD 726 [120:38]
Duruflé’s Requiem doesn’t have the same dark drama that is associated with that of Fauré or Brahms’ Deutsches Requiem. Dedicated to the composer’s father, this work is entirely based on Gregorian chant but uses Duruflé’s distinctive tonal palette, reminiscent of Ravel and Debussy. This recording, by the combined forces of two Danish choirs, is very enjoyable. The sound is very pure in tone, there is little vibrato, which suits this Parisian repertoire. The baritone soloist in Domine Jesu Christe uses his vibrato as an additional colour in his phrasing, which works well to characterise this sombre moment and is unusual for a successful opera singer where the expectation is a richer tone. The Sanctus is particularly well sung by the chorus, they fit their phrases neatly with the running figures in the organ part and the words are clear. The soprano soloist, Randi Stene, takes a more operatic approach to her Pie Jesu solo. This is matched very well by the cellist and it is a true duet between voice and bow, although not wholly in keeping with the overall sound of this recording. Clarity of diction is more successful in the Four Motets than in the Requiem possibly because they are only sung by the Vocal Group Concert Clemens. The Danish singers have a darker vowel sound for the Latin text than English or American choirs - for example Nimbus NI5599 from St. John’s College Cambridge reviewed here - which is resonant and warm, and they have better diction of consonants than French recordings. Tota pulchra es, scored for upper voices only, could have a little more bounce to the articulation in the opening motif as could Tu es Petrus, which is a little glutinous. The pace of the motets is well measured and the conductor, Carsten Seyer-Hansen should be justly proud of his ability to communicate his intention through his choirs.
The other music on these two CDs is all for solo organ. The organ of Aarhus Cathedral is well suited to this French repertoire, largely due to the import of the reed stops from France in the 1920s, and is roughly the same size as Duruflé’s beloved instrument at St. Étienne du Mont. Krogsøe - the cathedral’s youthful organist - handles this mature repertoire with some skill. Fugue sur le theme du carillon des heures de la cathédrale de Soissons is quite slow and heavily registered and therefore lacks the lightness that is present in other performances. The substantial Prélude, adagio et choral varié sur le theme du Veni Creator is crafted more convincingly and showcases some of the organ’s most beautiful stops - particularly the gentle 8’ reed used for the duet section in the Prélude. The Adagio is good, but isn’t heart stopping like John Scott’s recording (CDA66368). The Scherzo is delightfully playful and the string sounds are lovely. The Suite op. 5 is the most substantial organ work by Duruflé. It requires careful pacing to be able to get to the end in one piece and even more guts to pull off the large gestures in the first movement. Krogsøe could have made us sweat even more in the first movement, this time a slightly slower tempo would have exerted an even greater pressure on the listener, with greater reward. The Sicilienne is nicely phrased and uses some great sounds especially the huge, resonant pedal stops. In the Toccata, Krogsøe finally releases all his musical powers and probably needed a stiff drink at the end of it. This is the most enjoyable organ work on these CDs and, whilst there are other interpretations of this movement, it marks Krogsøe out as a man to listen out for in the future. He does the organ and the composition due credit.
Very extensive CD notes, an arty cover and some very accomplished music-making make this compendium of Duruflé’s works a valuable addition to any collection. Krogsøe and Seyer-Hansen are musicians to watch out for in the future.
Hannah Parry-Ridout 

Aarhus Cathedral is very fortunate to have such an accomplished musical team. 

see also review by William Hedley