Faure: Requiem; Pelléas et Mélisande

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COMPOSERS: Faure
LABELS: Erato
WORKS: Requiem; Pelléas et Mélisande
PERFORMER: Gilles Cachemaille, Mathias Usbeck / Romand Chamber Choir/Pro Arte Choir/Suisse Romande Orchestre/Armin Jordan
CATALOGUE NO: 2292 45813-2 DDD

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Fauré’s Requiem is well known for its mellifluous, translucent ambience. The composer had a rose-tinted, almost sentimental view of death and the heavenly rest that would accompany it. It was composed in dribs and drabs almost 100 years ago, and although the idiom is strictly of the 19th century, the musical language throws its feelers well into the 20th. It is not as easy to sing as it is to listen to. The choral writing is close-knit and harmonically idiosyncratic. The treble solo in the ‘Pie Jesu’ is exposed, fragile, and rather too famous. For the baritone the writing is curiously static, the orchestral accompaniment weaving around it in a way that always suggests doubtful intonation. (Add to this Fauré’s rather feeble orchestration and it might seem strange that such a piece has found so wide and appreciative an audience.) This recording has flair and a robust honesty that is immediately captivating. Mathias Usbeck is tender and expressive in the ‘Pie Jesu’, even if not flawless. The baritone Gilles Cachemaille shows admirable control. The ladies of the chorus have a pure, youthful tone that is enviable. The organ is real and sensitively positioned in the orchestral perspective. There is a good sense of place and of real, wholehearted performance. The incidental music for Pelléas et Mélisande is ravishingly played. From the opening bars of the Prelude and its surging, pleading melody it is clear that Armin Jordan’s treatment of these four short pieces is anything other than incidental. Christopher Lambton