Recording of October 1987: Duruflé & Fauré Requiems

Duruflé: Requiem; Fauré: Requiem
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

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COMMENTS
volvic's picture

One of the best, have it love it, still have a slight preference for the Giulini version and also honorable mention to the Cluytens which I also adore.  Can't go wrong with any of these. Fact get all three.   It is a beautiful work  

John Atkinson's picture

. . . of the Duruflé Requiem. I recently bought the hi-rez version with Bill Ives conducting the Choir of Magdelene College and while the sound and perfomance are both excellent, they still don't equal this quarter-century–old CD.

John Atkinson

Editor, Stereophile

dalethorn's picture

I bought the Telarc version. I wonder why audiences have found the Duruflé requiem bland - the Telarc/Shaw version sounds good to me.

corrective_unconscious's picture

I believe an unimportant but amusing error has crept into the work here, involving a rather wide range of decades within which the Faure must have been composed.

John Atkinson's picture

I mistyped "1997" instead of "1887." (The 8 and 9 keys are too close together on my keyboard.)

John Atkinson

Editor, Stereophile

low2midhifi's picture

I do not own this recording.  I am a great fan of this general era of recordings produced by the Telarc era.  It was a great epoch of abundant and mainly well-done recordings of good to superb ensembles.

I am glad that Stereophile took the time to bring up a recording which conjures up many memories of a fine period in the history of American-produced classical music, recording industry, and musical ensembles.

For Robert Shaw fans, I would also recommend the monumental solo chorus redition of Rachmaninoff's Vespers (All Night Vigil).  It is roughly contemporaneous to this recording.

The classical catalog--and, yes, CDs live on for many of us--has never been larger.  The diminished role of Telarc in today's world of classical recordings is, however, a sad loss and a notable void.

Plaudtis to Stereophile for bringing back memories (like the Boston Acoustics A40 article recently published).  Telarc recordings on Boston Acoustics A40 speakers is still, I'm sure, an irreplaceable source of memories for many music and audio fans.

I think it's time to get onto Amazon to look for this and other used Telarc recordings that are to be had at bargain basement prices.

volvic's picture

The early 80's Telarc era had great recordings and even greater performers, Slatkin, Shaw, Maazel, Osawa, Mata, etc, etc.  Holding some of those old recodings takes me back to an ealrier time when I could walk into my local hi-fi and spend $20.00 on a Malcolm Frager Telarc vinyl recording of Chopin waltzes and nocturnes, good times.  Those days sadly are mostly gone, at least where I live.  I second that great Vespers album that Shaw recorded on Telarc...it is sensational.  

Cheers

Nick 

low2midhifi's picture

Since we have some interest, I'll share some more views on the rich legacy of Telarc in the 1980s.

I'm sure some would have another favorite Telarc production. For me perhaps the greatest single achievement of Telarc was the complete Mozart Symphonies with Sir Charles Mackerras and the Prague Chamber Orchestra.  Taken on its merits of interpretation, recording venues, and sonic engineering, this set of symphonies, along with the serenade recordings on a separate CD, is, in my experience, one of the truly great box-sets of classical CDs.

This set stands alongside such singularly superb box sets as Antal Dorati's Complete Haydn Symphonies on Decca, Murray Perahia's Complete Mozart Piano Concertos on Sony, Eugen Jochum's Complete Bruckner Symphonies (DC or EMI), or Solit's Mahler Cycle on Decca.  I'm sure there are others I'm missing.

After reading this short but excellent article, I visited arkivmusic.com's Telarc section.  It is another testimonial to this great era that to this day a best seller on this site is the early Telarc recording of Fredrick Fennell conducting Holst works with the Cleveland Symphonic Winds.

Yes, the longer one ponders it, the greater Telarc's body of recordings grows in stature.

volvic's picture

Anything Mackerras did was very well done, those Telarc recordings are a must and are highly rated, agreed.  I would add Jochum's Haydn, Geza Anda's Mozart piano concertos or Karajan's complete Bruckner symphonies, which I especially like.  I totally forgot about the Frederic Fennel, which is one of the first Telarc's I bought and may I also add honorable mention to Serkin/Osawa Beethoven Piano concertos, not as good as Kempff's mono but if you can find them grab them well worth it, also includes the choral fantasy.  Good stuff.    

low2midhifi's picture

Glad to see I'm not alone as a Telarc fan from the 1980s. 

Another great achievement of Telarc, though perhaps not always the greatest works by this company, was the great involvement of Telarc with American orchestras.  The recordings made by Telarc of American orchestras probably represented the high-water mark of recordings made with such a broad array of American orchestras.

Telarc probably put the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra on the map.  The gong crash and bass drum thump in Copland's Fanfare for the Common Man, made by this ensemble, is still one of the greatest sonic tests that one can administer to a pair of speakers and amplification of any grade.

Slatkin's St. Louis Orchestras with Telarc were equally memorable.  The Sacred and Profane Dances by Debussy, conducted by Leonard Slatkin, remains one of the few recordings available of this fascinating and spell-binding work.

Tchaikovsky's 4th Symphony, and Rachmaninoff's 3rd Symphony, made with David Zinman and the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, stand among the finest renderings of these works that I have heard.

Andre Previn's Telarc recordings show the beginnings of the world-class finished product which is today's Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra.  Of course, while we are out west, one must also recall Previn's still top grade jazz recordings with Joe Pass and Ray Brown. "After Hours" is a sonic delight and one of my favorite jazz recordings from any label.

Despite the existence recordings from larger labels like Decca, EMI, Philips and Deutsche Grammphon, Telarc's recordings with "established" orchestras like Boston/Ozawa, Maazel/Cleveland & Pittsburgh hold their own as fine representations of the recorded legacy of these more well-known ensembles.

I hope we can keep the memories going on this discssion board going for a time.  It was a fine era indeed.

volvic's picture

Going to dig through my library and mention some noteworthy ones later on tonight, but while I believe their golden age was the 80's they nevertheless came out with some exceptional releases in the 90's as well.  One of my favourite recordings is a John Tavener recording of the Protecting Veil by I Fiamminghi.  The sonics are quite good but the performance is so moving that if you do not have it in your library I strongly recommend it.  I would also like to mention how many great jazz recodings they made with Dizzy Gillespie, Oscar Peterson to name a few.  Before I forget the famous 1812 Ouverture recording made by Kunzel, that I believe used real canons and had stickers on the label warning us not to crank it up to high.  I still play it with the volume set at low, if the woofers on my Linn Kan's go I am toast.   

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