Faure: Requiem; Cantique de Jean Racine; La naissance de Vénus; Pavane

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LABELS: Chandos
WORKS: Requiem; Cantique de Jean Racine; La naissance de Vénus; Pavane
PERFORMER: Libby Crabtree, Mary Plazas (soprano), Pamela Helen Stephen (mezzo-soprano), Timothy Robinson (tenor), James Rutherford (bass), Jonathan Scott (organ); City of Birmingham Symphony Chorus, BBC Philharmonic/Yan Pascal Tortelier


Performances of the full orchestral version of Fauré’s Requiem are something of a rarity these days. Ever since the Nectoux-Delage edition of the score appeared, reconstructing the composer’s original version with no woodwind and just a single violin, the fashion has been for leaner performances. However, the absence of certain instruments does not necessarily mean that Fauré wanted a small orchestra. The Requiem is a work more suited to cathedrals than chapels and this new version is unashamedly full-fat Fauré, with resounding lower brass providing a foil to the more transcendent passages from the massed ranks of the chorus. Adopting a brisker approach than the classic Willcocks account (EMI), Tortelier strikes a fine balance between beauty and indulgence. Libby Crabtree takes a beguilingly simple approach to the ‘Pie Jesu’ and the Birmingham chorus is in fine voice, if a little distant and despite its distinctly English take on Latin pronunciation. Where this disc wins hands down is in the accompanying works, notably La naissance de Vénus. This may not be a choral work in the same class as the Requiem, but it contains some marvellous music, making its current neglect almost criminal. Only Bernard Tétu’s recording of the two-piano version is readily available (EMI), making Tortelier’s offering of this ‘Scène mythologique’ in its orchestral guise extremely desirable. Throw in a sublime saunter through the Cantique de Jean Racine and the Pavane (with added chorus) and the result is a disc that will rarely languish on a shelf for very long. Christopher Dingle