Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Faure/Saint-Saens/Debussy
LABELS: Philips
WORKS: Requiem; Madrigal; Les djinns
PERFORMER: Catherine Bott (soprano), Gilles Cachemaille (baritone), Sabine Vatin (piano) Monteverdi Choir, Salisbury Cathedral Boy Choristers, Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique/John Eliot Gardiner
As Jeremy Summerly points out in his notes to Fauré’s Requiem, ‘the intimacy of the [original] scoring was a deliberate reaction against Berlioz’s Requiem, which Fauré detested because of its use of massed forces to emphasise the horror of purgatorial suffering’. Moreover, Summerly’s performance style attempts ‘to move Fauré’s liturgical music from the concert hall to the church’ and, although his adoption of Fauré’s preferred phrasing and French 19th-century ecclesiastical pronunciation occasionally produces unfamiliar details which might well deter less open-minded collectors, the results are fascinating, with excellent performance and sympathetic recording.


Despite the limited forces of Fauré’s original orchestration, Gardiner’s version has remarkable power and intensity. The instrumental sound is beautifully rich and warmly resonant; phrasing is sensitive and intelligent, and the choral singing, enriched by the boy trebles of Salisbury Cathedral Choir, is superb. As for the soloists, Bott’s sensational ethereal purity in the ‘Pie Jesu’ and Cachemaille’s vivid expression in the ‘Libera Me’ challenge the finest available versions.


Summerly’s scholarly and excellently performed programme, which includes works by Vierne and De Séverac in addition to the popular Messe basse and Cantique de Jean Racine, is very attractive, but Gardiner’s disc, which also offers splendidly atmospheric performances of choral music by Fauré, Saint-Saëns, Debussy and Ravel, is quite simply outstanding. Nicholas Rast