Duruflé Requiem; Messe Cum Jubilo; Poulenc Sacred Choral Works

Differing approaches to this French choral music bring contrasting results

Record and Artist Details

Composer or Director: Francis Poulenc, Olivier Messiaen, Maurice Duruflé

Genre:

Vocal

Label: Channel Classics

Media Format: Super Audio CD

Media Runtime: 86

Mastering:

Stereo
DDD

Catalogue Number: CCSSA22405

Tracks:

Composition Artist Credit
Requiem Maurice Duruflé, Composer
Maurice Duruflé, Composer
Peter Dijkstra, Conductor
The Gents
Notre père Maurice Duruflé, Composer
Maurice Duruflé, Composer
Peter Dijkstra, Conductor
The Gents
(4) Petites prières de Saint François d'Assise Francis Poulenc, Composer
Francis Poulenc, Composer
Peter Dijkstra, Conductor
The Gents
Mass 'Cum jubilo' Maurice Duruflé, Composer
Maurice Duruflé, Composer
Peter Dijkstra, Conductor
The Gents
Laudes de Saint Antoine de Padoue Francis Poulenc, Composer
Francis Poulenc, Composer
Peter Dijkstra, Conductor
The Gents
O sacrum convivium! Olivier Messiaen, Composer
Olivier Messiaen, Composer
Peter Dijkstra, Conductor
The Gents

Composer or Director: Maurice Duruflé

Genre:

Vocal

Label: Lammas

Media Format: CD or Download

Media Runtime: 64

Mastering:

Stereo
DDD

Catalogue Number: LAMM174D

Tracks:

Composition Artist Credit
Requiem Maurice Duruflé, Composer
Christopher Gray, Organ
Maurice Duruflé, Composer
Robert Sharpe, Conductor
Truro Cathedral Choir
(4) Motets sur des thèmes grégoriens Maurice Duruflé, Composer
Christopher Gray, Organ
Maurice Duruflé, Composer
Robert Sharpe, Conductor
Truro Cathedral Choir
Mass 'Cum jubilo' Maurice Duruflé, Composer
Christopher Gray, Organ
Maurice Duruflé, Composer
Robert Sharpe, Conductor
Truro Cathedral Choir
Notre père Maurice Duruflé, Composer
Christopher Gray, Organ
Maurice Duruflé, Composer
Robert Sharpe, Conductor
Truro Cathedral Choir
The first performance of Duruflé’s Requiem, in Paris just after the Second World War, no doubt owed some of its success to the work’s incorporation of plainsong, reassuring French music lovers in those difficult times that some traditional values at least had survived the Occupation.

The original 1947 score uses a large orchestra, but the following year Duruflé made the reduced version with organ which is the one performed in both these recordings. As an organist and choirmaster Duruflé knew about writing for large enclosed spaces, even if his own Paris church of St-Etienne-du-Mont is not the largest or most resonant in the capital: harmonic movement is generally slow and the lines of the texture occupy well-defined vertical areas. Even so, and for all its plainsong elements, his choral music does not sing itself. The chief danger is that it subsides into an atmospheric mush, and the Truro Cathedral Choir do not altogether avoid this. No doubt the acoustic is largely responsible for many inaudible words, but there are several moments when a sharper attack and bolder phrasing would have helped. There are also too many late and rushed entries, most noticeably at the start of the Sanctus, where Duruflé, from experience, actually puts a stress mark over the initial quaver on the first syllable of that word. This is a pity because the boys especially make a lovely sound and are 99 per cent in tune.

Duruflé’s late Mass Cum jubilo is not in the same class as the Requiem: the plainsong melodies are unmemorable and there are few obvious moments when the spirit lifts. It’s a sober work and in this recording sobriety often descends into dullness – the baritone soloist’s high G sharp in the Gloria is startling, but for the wrong reasons. Here The Gents show what has to be done in the way of shaping phrases and using words. The acoustic of their church is far from dry, but it’s much easier to hear what’s going on. Partly this is because they are more closely recorded, but also because their diction is splendidly crisp and somehow they seem to be living the emotions behind the hallowed words – obviously an area where women always tend to score over choirboys.

The Gents, with or without distaff support, produce equally fine singing throughout their recording. Their tone is full but never hectoring or pompous, and the tricky passages of intonation in the Poulenc motets are managed with apparent ease, while their ensemble is a joy to listen to: the final ‘Amen’ of the Laudes sets a seal on the work in just the way Poulenc must surely have imagined. A finely controlled performance of Messiaen’s O sacrum convivium! ends this deeply impressive disc.

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