Faure, Franck: Requiem

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5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Faure,Franck
LABELS: Harmonia Mundi
WORKS: Requiem
PERFORMER: Johannette Zomer (soprano), Stephan Genz (baritone); La Chapelle Royale, Collegium Vocale Gent, Orchestre des Champs Élysées/Philippe Herreweghe


Making choices for the Fauré has become a complicated business. Women or boys? Large or small? Original or published? And now, Herreweghe or Herreweghe: having already recorded an approximation to Faure’s earliest definitive thoughts, he offers the ‘usual’ Requiem as you’ve never heard it, meant to sound as it might have in 1901. Period instruments you expect, in particular vivid trombones and soft strings. Gallic Latin you don’t, but it makes a huge difference to hear ‘luceat’ or ‘Jesu’ pronounced as though the words were French, lightening the vocal timbres. The nasal quality is echoed by a harmonium which takes the organ’s place. Apart from all this, the performance is powerfully affecting. Broad and solemn in approach, it uses a quite small professional chorus and ideal soloists, the baritone light and vibrant (though he misses the party-line pronunciation of ‘tremenda’) and the adult soprano possessed of fine control and expressive intensity in, for me, the perfect ‘Pie Jesu’. The various more intimate editions still sound truer in the end, but this is so overwhelming it has to be heard. There’s an unusually interesting coupling: imagine an old-fashioned French orchestra that plays together. The Franck has more vigour and cohesion than the orchestra’s London performance last year, especially in a punchy Allegro at double the speed of the introduction with plenty of give-and-take. The finale builds strongly towards dramatically expansive flashbacks, but the middle movement could do with more violins and emerges relatively bland. A resonant acoustic swallows the symphony’s concluding fanfare. If Franck rather than period style is your interest, go for Tortelier’s vitality and lyricism. Robert Maycock