Sunday, November 06, 2011

Classical CDs Weekly: Fauré

The arts desk
Graham Rickson
5. November 2011

Paavo Järvi brings life to a popular requiem setting Jean Christophe Uhl

Fauré: Requiem Chœur de l’Orchestre de Paris, Orchestre de Paris, Paavo Järvi, with Philippe Jaroussky (counter tenor), Matthias Goerne (baritone) (Virgin Classics)

Fauré’s understated Requiem is another iconic work which has suffered by dint of its popularity; too many dodgy amateur performances convinced me that I never wanted to hear it again. And then a fresh-sounding recording turns up, and makes you realise that there is something special going on here. It’s Fauré’s restraint which surprises: there’s little shock and bombast in this Requiem but a great deal of warm, fuzzy consolation. The surprise in Paavo Järvi’s live recording of the full orchestral version is counter tenor Philippe Jaroussky’s solo in the Pie Jesu, a gamble which comes off beautifully; Jaroussky’s otherworldly vocal perfect for this work. Mathias Goerne is less distinctive, but Järvi’s large choir make a pleasingly rich sound and the overall effect is more sincere and less cloying than it can be. It’s a sober, serious reading, with a final In Paradisum which didn’t make me wince.

Virgin’s couplings are generous. They’re familiar in the case of the brief Pavane, here heard with its superfluous choral part, a setting of a truly atrocious poem, and the Elégie for cello and orchestra, beautifully played by Eric Picard. The early Cantique de Jean Racine sounds good here, but more interesting is a rare performance of Super flumina Babylonis, an ambitious ten minute Psalm setting which is so much more impetuous and heady than the Requiem. It’s Fauré working with bold colours rather than pastel shades.

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