Fauré • Bach

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3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Gabriel Fauré; JS Bach
ALBUM TITLE: Fauré • Bach
WORKS: Fauré: Requiem; Bach: Partita in D minor, Chorales & Ciaconna
PERFORMER: Gordan Nikolitch (violin), Grace Davidson (soprano), William Gaunt (baritone); Tenebrae; London Symphony Orchestra Chamber Ensemble/Nigel Short


The playing of the London Symphony Orchestra Chamber Ensemble and their leader Gordan Nikolitch and the singing of Tenebrae and the two soloists are all exemplary. The problems here are not mostly of execution but, on two fronts, of conception.

A fascinating note from Professor Helga Thoene gives details of how Bach underpinned his solo violin music with chorale melodies. In a learned article or an illustrated lecture, this information would be more than welcome. But to present for extended and repeated listening a performance of the D minor Chaconne accompanied throughout by wisps of sung chorales seems to me, frankly, a mistake. After two minutes, I really couldn’t take any more – all the sadder because Nikolitch’s performances of the four dances from the D minor Partita are riveting, aided by the warm acoustic of St Giles’s, Cripplegate.

Sad too to find the Fauré Requiem performed from an edition, based on the autograph, in which the composer’s wishes are not accurately realised. Parts exist for a version from the early 1890s which solve problems thrown up by the autograph, marked up as it was for multiple performances over a decade with differing forces. Certainly I miss the discreet but ominous timpani rumbles in the ‘Libera me’. And then in this performance there are the gross distensions of note values at the very opening… Finally, further to the booklet notes, at the first performance the soloist in the ‘Pie Jesu’ was indeed a boy: Louis Aubert, who some 20 years later introduced to the public Ravel’s Valses nobles et sentimentales.


Roger Nichols