Faure: Requiem; Super flumina Babylonis; Cantique de Jean Racine; Elégie etc

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Faure
LABELS: Virgin
WORKS: Requiem; Super flumina Babylonis; Cantique de Jean Racine; Elégie etc
PERFORMER: Philippe Jaroussky (countertenor), Matthias Goerne (baritone), Eric Picard (cello); Choeur & l’Orchestre de Paris/Paavo Järvi
CATALOGUE NO: Virgin 070 9212

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The most attractive features of this disc are its two main selling points: the countertenor Philippe Jaroussky singing the ‘Pie Jesu’ and the inclusion of the rarely heard motet Super flumina Babylonis. On this showing, Jaroussky might more accurately be described as a countermezzo, since his fine high Fs (top line of treble stave) are delivered with no sense of strain. Most of the time, he fits the historical bill in sounding more like a boy than a mezzo – only at the ends of some phrases is the purity given a slight edge. Fauré wrote the motet in 1863 when he was 18, as a prize entry at the Ecole Niedermeyer, and came away with a highly honourable mention. It proves he could do drama when he wanted, and could orchestrate it, too. Indeed, in the inventive orchestral coda we hear genius in the making.

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Eric Picard plays the Elégie stylishly, supported by some lovely woodwind solos. But, sadly, other features are less alluring. The overall choral sound in the Salle Pleyel is muddy, words are mostly inaudible and the soprano line is rather weak. The balance between orchestra and chorus favours the former, drowning some quiet chorus entries. In the Requiem, Matthias Goerne’s fast vibrato becomes wearing. The two selling points, then, may do their job. But Yan Pascal Tortelier’s recording wins by some way. Roger Nichols