ALBUM TITLE: Fauré
WORKS: Requiem; Messe Basse; Cantique de Jean Racine; Offertories, Op. 65
PERFORMER: Saint Thomas Choir of Men and Boys, Fifth Avenue, New York; Orchestra of St Luke’s/John Scott; Frederick Teardo, Kevin Kwan (organ)
CATALOGUE NO: RES 10174
St Thomas’s Church, New York is the only Episcopalian church in the US to have its own choir school, so it’s understandable that the standard of the boys’ singing as shown here is extremely high: radiant tone, good words and intelligent phrasing. Richard Pittsinger’s first class delivery of the ‘Pie Jesu’ sets the spine tingling. Only on the extended choral top F at the end of the Ave verum is there even the ghost of a wobble, and the blend of the whole choir is also excellent.
Against these virtues one has, sadly, to set a number of less happy features. The most persistent of these is a tendency to over-sedate tempos, notably in the Cantique de Jean Racine and at the start of the Agnus Dei where, as is becoming increasingly common, Andante is interpreted as Poco adagio: the return of this D major opening after the words ‘luceat eis’ should sound like the voice of hope, not of resignation. In bars three and six of the Introit sedateness takes on another aspect in the enormous rallentandos – again, a reading that seems to be doing the rounds and for which there is absolutely no authority in any of the sources. Added to these are a somewhat distant recording of the full choir, and a baritone who commits what the French unkindly call ‘chevrotement’ – goatly bleating – together with vulgar upward slides, not to mention the illiterate ‘promisisti et semini (breath) ejus.’