Durufle: Requiem; Quatre Motets sur des thèmes gregoriens; Notre père; Messe cum jubilo

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Durufle
LABELS: Hyperion
WORKS: Requiem; Quatre Motets sur des thèmes gregoriens; Notre père; Messe cum jubilo
PERFORMER: Aaron Webber (treble), Simon Keenlyside (baritone), Iain Simcock (organ); Choir of Westminster Cathedral/James O’Donnell
CATALOGUE NO: CDA 66757 DDD
Westminster Cathedral Choir is on cracking form at present. Arguably it’s the 20th-century Franco-Flemish repertoire that suits it best (witness their Poulenc and Langlais, already on Hyperion).

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At best, the boys produce the kind of inspired continental sound heard from Coventry Cathedral in its heyday, or from St John’s, Cambridge, under George Guest (who rightly made meaning and feeling priorities).

Vowels are periodically over-dark, and the odd exposed passage gets tight. The ‘Libera me’ accelerandi and final triplets don’t quite come off and, though the phrasing is good and the atmosphere tangible, the pace is just a bit too laid back in places. Aaron Webber, the solo treble, lacks puff, but, buoyed up by Natalie Clein’s cello, his curiously stylised vowels should melt you all the same.

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Lower parts come splendidly into their own in the twenty-minute Mass for men’s voices; Iain Simcock’s organ accompaniments are like wafted incense. The motets are mostly (not uniformly) admirable. There are King’s and New College rival versions to weigh up, as well as the mixed-voice Corydon Singers (also on Hyperion). But there’s plenty to appeal in this one, and few will be seriously disappointed. The sound is attractive, though a little cramped here and there. Roderic Dunnett