Review by gonzostick August 18, 2009 (9 of 11 found this review helpful)
|This is one of the most misbegotten performances of the Fauré Requiem I know. I have known this work very well since I first conducted it at the first concert I organized about 40 years ago.
First the technical quality. The surround and stereo mixes sound very good with good presence to the organ, integral to the orchestra and support of the chorus. The player actually has the courage to add chorus reeds to the organ in the tuttis, which add to the general fullness of the textures. I only rated this four stars because the recording is low in level and requires a boost in playback level for the sound to really bloom.
While this is valuable for the performance of the Fauré Op. 29 Cantata, the performance of the Requiem is the central issue and conductor Tortelier has NO idea about the basic pious feeling necessary to conduct this work. He rushes tempos everywhere as if he were storming the heights of the Verdi Dies Irae, but what lies at the core of this work is COMFORT. He misses that indispensable feeling and focus completely.
The baritone soloist is terrible. Instead of comforting the listener and supplicating, according to the text, he sounds like he is playing out his helden-baryton fantasies as the Libera Me is sung in the worst "can belto" tradition. He is not praying to the Deity to free him from eternal death; no, more like calling up the fires of Hell, or Loge's Magic Fire... There are some terribly unmusical accents that are simply obnoxious. I do not think I have ever heard worse and more stentorian singing in this work. The conductor should have told his baritone to mellow out and understand the text of what he is singing.
The Pie Jesu, the heart of the work, is terrible, too. The Soprano tries to sing it like a child and ends up mostly with the white tone of a child, but her voice is not beautiful enough to sound like a supplicant. It's more like nails on a chalkboard. She regularly sings early music, but that tone is completely WRONG for this music. I have never heard a more repulsive version of this section, which can be heart-rendingly lovely in the hands of a real soprano with a beautiful voice. This is NOT beautiful nor pious. UGH~!
The choir shows some very sloppy singing at releases and the Latin diction shows some very sloppy vowel sounds that stem from its British Anglican phonation of Latin text. These should have been corrected by the choral conductor.
There best version of this work on SACD is the Harmonia Mundi with Herreweghe conducting. That has one problem: the edition. The edition used in the HM SACD is the earliest version, for reduced forces. The Requiem has a very strange history of different editions and orchestrations. My favorite performances are those of John Rutter on RBCD. He had to make his own edition from all extant versions. In his case, the performance is luminous, pious, and everything the work needs. There ia also an older reading by Cluytens on EMI RBCD that is very slow and very pious with solos by Fischer-Dieskau and Victoria de los Angeles. The solo singing in that recording is beautiful.
Again, this is a missed opportunity to make a pious, mellow work, sing and be luminous as it can be, in a really good performance. This particular one, is NOT one...
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