In quality of both sound and performance, there is a gulf between the Requiem and the rest. Gillian Weir travelled across great tracts of Europe before finding the Aarhus Cathedral organ for her complete Messiaen cycle, and it is indeed a splendiferous instrument of which Kristian Krogsøe takes full advantage in the solo organ works. They range from delicate colours in the Scherzo to full-blooded roaring in the Toccata. The variety he draws from the organ’s 89 stops (no fewer than 24 in the pedal division) does help enliven Duruflé’s restricted modal vocabulary and he is in control throughout. The four motets, too, are sung with feeling and excellent balance, even if the long reverberation may be too much for some listeners.
But the real problems come in the Requiem. Neither soloist is satisfactory (the baritone interprets the instruction ‘agitato’ over ‘Tremens factus sum’ as a licence to go bananas) and, for reasons I can’t fathom, the same organist is reluctant to use the swell pedal, so we’re denied the full effect of the many die-away endings – also, why no 32' Bourdon at the end of the ‘Pie Jesu’, and no gorgeous G sharp (on harp in the orchestral version) to decorate the final chord of the work? The changes of tempo in the ‘Lux aeterna’ are ignored and the chorus are slightly too distantly recorded.