Requiems for Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette
Luigi CHERUBINI (1760-1842)
Requiem in c minor à la mémoire de Louis XVI (1815 or earlier) [37:12]
Charles-Henri PLANTADE (1764-1839)
Messe des morts (Requiem) in d minor à la mémoire de Marie-Antoinette (1823 or earlier: first recording) [31:57]
Le Concert Spirituel/Hervé Niquet
rec. Chapelle Royale du Château de Versailles, 21 & 22 January 2016. DDD.
Texts and translations included
Reviewed as 24/96 download with pdf booklet from
ALPHA 251 [69:14] 

Comparative recording: Corydon Singers and Orchestra/Matthew Best (with Marche funèbre) Hyperion CDA66805. Incredibly this first-rate recording has been relegated to the Archive Serive but can be downloaded for just £6.99 from Hyperion.

While there are several recordings of the Cherubini c-minor Requiem, a work much admired by Beethoven, Brahms and Berlioz, this is the first of the Plantade. Performed after the restoration of the French monarchy and both composed for choir and orchestra without soloists, they make an excellent pairing.

If you thought the Cherubini a highly dramatic and theatrical work, the Plantade is in some respects even more so. The Dies irae of both works bids fair to challenge the Verdi Requiem in that respect, yet some aspects of both are firmly grounded in the 18th century, appropriately for music in memory of two figures synonymous with the Ancien Régime. The Plantade straddles these two worlds even more than the Cherubini.

Hervé Niquet records for several labels, with his own Le Concert Spirituel and with other groups, as in the Fauré Requiem with the Flemish Radio Choir on Evil Penguin Records which earned John Quinn’s approval.

Apart from the odd choice of a cover, I much enjoyed his recording with Le Concert Spirituel of Vivaldi’s Gloria, RV589, Magnificat, RV610a, etc. (Alpha 222 – DL News 2015/11). I reviewed that release from a low-bit-rate mp3 press preview; it has since become available in better mp3 or lossless sound, with pdf booklet, from The rather short playing time means that the album costs only $8.95.

The performances of Cherubini and Plantade are no less successful and the recording is very good indeed. Even if you already have the excellent Hyperion recording, the new Alpha is well worth obtaining for the Plantade: a real discovery.

If you are looking for a pair of Requiems from an earlier age and in a quieter, more meditative style, you may well find what you are looking for on a recent release from another label from the Outhere Music group: a mass (Missa pro defunctis) by Johann Caspar Kerll (1627-1693) and the Kaiserrequiem by Johann Joseph Fux (1660-1741) on Ricercar (RIC368), which I auditioned as a lossless download supplied by Outhere Music. The notes in the booklet speculate on the possibility that one or both of these Viennese Requiem Masses might have served in part as the model for Mozart with his access to the archives of the cathedral. There is only one other recording of the Fux (Deutsche Harmonia Mundi) and no other of the Kerll but these beautifully refined and well recorded performances will serve very well indeed. The Fux work is known as the Kaiserrequiem because it was performed at the exequies of Emperor Charles VI in 1740 – not 1640, as per the English text of the booklet – but had been composed two decades earlier for the funeral of Eleonora of Gonzaga, widow of Leopold I.

Both these recordings on Alpha and Ricercar include the sole recordings of music well worth hearing. I’m writing this review in November, the month of remembrance, and greatly appreciating the contrast between the thoughtful Kerll and Fux and the highly dramatic Cherubini and Plantade on two very fine albums. I shall also be listening to two very fine albums which John Quinn recently reviewed: Duruflé Requiem, etc. from King’s on their own label – review – and one from Clare College on Harmonia Mundi entitled Remembrance, also including inter alia the Duruflé – review. I shall be saying more about these in a forthcoming Retrospective as heard from downloads from Hyperion (King’s) and (Clare) but both are well worth considering.

Brian Wilson

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