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Maurice DURUFLÉ (1902-1986)
Requiem, op. 9 (1947) [37:45]
Méditation, op. posth.(1964) [4:04]
Quatre Motets sur des thèmes grégoriens, op. 10 (1960) [7:40]
Prélude et fugue sur le nom d’Alain, op. 7 (1942) [12:31]
Fugue sur le thème du carillon des heures de la cathédrale de Soissons, op. 12 (c.1967) [3:52]
Prélude, adagio et choral varié sur le thème du Veni Creator, op. 4 (1930) [20:31]
Prélude sur l’Introït de l’Épiphanie, op. 13 (1960s) [2:12]
Scherzo, op. 2 (1924) [6:01]
Chant donné - hommage à Jean Gallon [1:59]
Suite, op. 5 (1933) [23:35]
Bo Skovhus (baritone): Randi Stene (soprano)
Kristian Krogsøe (organ): Henrik Brendstrup (cello)
Aarhus Cathedral Choir; Vocal Group Concert Clemens/Carsten Seyer-Hansen
rec. May 2010, Aarhus Cathedral (vocal works) and February-April 2012 (organ works)
DANACORD DACOCD 726 [62:17 + 58:21]

Experience Classicsonline

  Duruflé’s Requiem is placed in its liturgical context in this two disc conspectus, not least because the composer originally intended it as a suite based on old Gregorian chants. Its eventual appearance in 1947 was for the forces we know today, and its dedication was to the composer’s father who had died two years before. Incidentally the notes state that it has now been discovered that the Requiem was commissioned by the Vichy Government as part of a concerted programme to produce works from composers who had run into financial problems before and during the War.
The Requiem receives a most interesting and in many ways compelling reading from the combined Aarhus Cathedral Choir and Vocal Group Concert Clemens under Carsten Seyer-Hansen. It’s a mixture of warmth and ice; warmth in the solo contributions from Bo Skovhus and Randi Stone, and a degree of ice - or at least spiritual purity - from the combined chorus. Thus the Introit is restrained and the Kyrie benefits from the excellent intonation of the chorus. There are sepulchral organ harmonies (Kristian Krogsøe) in the Domine Jesu Christe, where Skovhus’s baritone takes on a gravely noble hue. In the Pie Jesu the contrast between the earlier restraint and purity is palpable. Soprano Randi Stone certainly brings some heft to proceedings, in a solo of ardently expressive, almost operatic proportions. Clearly this is part of a deliberate scheme because Skovhus’s Libera me marks an even more decisive shift in favour of the intense, even eruptive. It is as if the work in this performance accretes increasingly histrionic qualities as it progresses. Unsympathetic listeners might well claim that these outbursts are not properly scaled, whilst those who see in the work more than restraint might reply that they better represent its more anguished moments.
The Vocal Group Concert Clemens performs the Four Motets on Gregorian themes, another link to the Requiem. The acoustic can be rather echo-y here, which perhaps explains why the group is not quite so well blended as in the combined choral contribution; the smaller forces seem to have caused the more problems.
The rest of the programme consists of the solo organ works. There is the Prelude and fugue on the name of Alain, Op.7, which Duruflé thought his most successful organ piece. His Op.12, was written in memory of the distinguished Louis Vierne 25 years after his death, a grand and eloquent piece. The influence of Tournemire haunts Op.4 and sits proudly in the august French lineage.  The Scherzo Op.2 is a very early work, and takes a shot at diaphanous colour in best impressionist style. And then, perhaps inevitably, the recital ends with the Suite Op.5. This ends with the (in)famous Toccata -  and even its composer found it infamous. But what’s forgotten, sometimes, is the large-scale amplitude of the opening Prélude and the refined sonorities of the central Sicilienne.
Duruflé music has been presented in a thoughtful way here, even though the recording of the Requiem, the central work, will certainly divide opinion. Fortunately, the two discs are priced as for one.
Jonathan Woolf

see also reviews by William Hedley and Hannah Parry-Ridout


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