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Accentus Rethinks Fauré

available at Amazon
G. Fauré, Requiem Mass / Cantique de Jean Racine, S. Piau, S. Degout, Accentus, L. Equilbey

(released on November 18, 2008)
Naïve V 5137
The talented and wide-ranging chamber choir Accentus, based in Paris and directed by Laurence Equilbey, is a group we hope to hear live soon. Their impressive discography includes an intriguing selection of Liszt's sacred music and a program of choral transcriptions that Jens has reviewed for WETA. Neither of the sacred choral works of Fauré on this new disc, the setting of (most of) the Requiem Mass (op. 48) and the Cantique de Jean Racine, really needs a new recording, but anyone looking to buy their first recording or get a new perspective on these somewhat overexposed works should give this new version by Accentus and members of the Orchestre national de France a spin. The performances could not be more authentically French, and not only in the pronunciation of the Racine translation of Consors paterni luminis in the Cantique (much more about the living than the dead, which makes its typical programming with the Requiem Mass something of a mystery). Sandrine Piau gives a heart-melting rendition of the Pie Jesu movement of the Requiem, with what must be the perfect voice, all shimmering color at the center of the tone, for that most famous aria, which is done so poorly so often. Baritone Stéphane Degout is a mellow, golden cantorial presence in the Offertorium and Libera Me, and the children's voices of the Maîtrise de Paris hover ethereally above the Accentus voices in the In paradisum.

The best option for a reference recording of the Fauré Requiem is the original 1893 orchestration, for chamber orchestra (two horns, two trumpets, three trombones, timpani, harp, violas, cellos, double basses, organ, solo violin), which is what is recorded here, rather than the later augmentation for full orchestra, which may have been carried out for publication by Fauré's student Jean Roger-Ducasse and is found in many older recordings. The 1893 version of the score was not published until 1994, after the parts were discovered in the archives of the Eglise de La Madeleine, where Fauré was maître de chapelle and organist, by musicologist Jean-Michel Nectoux. Although not recorded at La Madeleine, where Fauré led the premiere of the work (to commemorate the death of King Louis XVI, a royalist association that does not attach much to the work anymore), this recording benefits from the acoustic of the church of Sainte-Clotilde, in the 7e arrondissment, which provides a warm, resonant background for luscious sound. The organ of Sainte-Clotilde, a legendary Cavaillé-Coll instrument inaugurated by César Franck and updated by Charles Tournemire and Jean Langlais, produces an extraordinary range of sounds in the hands of Christophe Henry (much of the original sound has been restored in recent renovations of the organ).


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