Recording of October 1987: Duruflé & Fauré Requiems
Blegen, Morris, Shaw, Atlanta SO and Chorus.
Telarc 80135 (CD). Robert Woods, prod.; Jack Renner, eng. DDD. TT: 74:23
To have two Requiems by French composers on the same disc certainly invites comparisons. Superficially similar, the works are actually quite different: both are conceived for small-scale performance, both rely on the organ, and neither places any great demands on chorus or orchestra. The differences concern mood and even intent. Fauré's Requiem, composed between 1887 and 1890, has survived all kinds of performances, both amateur and professional, without losing its ability to move hearers with its gentle hymn for the dead. The Duruflé, composed in 1947, has not achieved this kind of public appeal. A commissioned work, and not unified in style, this requiem is enjoyed by those who sing it; audiences tend to find it bland.
The present recording would be hard to improve on. The sonic picture is all that anyone could wish for: both extremes of volume sound natural, and inner parts are clear. The accompanying leaflet assures us that the entire recording process was "transformerless."
As to the performance, it need hardly be said that whatever chorus Robert Shaw chooses to direct automatically becomes the best chorus in America. No other conductor has managed such control, diction, beauty of tone, and unfussy rightness. The only possible criticism is that the chorus is not French, and consequently cannot duplicate the charm of church Latin sung with a French accent.
The solo parts in the Fauré are well taken. Judith Blegen is successful in scaling down her voice to the size required for the simple but difficult Pie Jesu. James Morris is sturdy and sincere in music usually sung by a baritone. There is nothing Gallic about either of these distinguished singers' performance.
The solo parts in the Duruflé are taken by the sections involved. The mezzo soprano solo, as sung by Shaw's alto section, is a beautiful example of what choral singing should be.
These are fine performances, treated in a manner more American than French, and magnificently recorded.Harold Lynn