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The Fauré Requiem went through three stages of gestation. It started life as a five-movement ‘minor Requiem’; Fauré’s additions made it into a seven-movement chamber version; and this was eventually scored by the composer or a pupil for large orchestra.

The Hänssler disc features the chamber version with an ensemble and the young voices of the Schleswig-Holstein Chor directed by Rolf Beck; Paavo Järvi conducts the orchestral version, usually heard in the concert hall, with the Choeur de l’Orchestre de Paris – and herein lies the difference.

With a symphony orchestra and chorus at his disposal, Järvi brings out the dramatic passages. The brief appearance of the day of wrath is certainly that. There are marked differences between the quieter passages and the fortissimo sections that are compel- ling, and the chorus, in excellent form, responds to the demands made of it. Matthias Goerne’s interpretation is effective and in step with Järvi’s thinking; but the revelation is the Pie Jesu sung by the talented young counter-tenor Philippe Jaroussky, bringing a different dimension to the music.

Beck’s interpretation could comfortably slot into a church Requiem Mass. This is an understated and deeply reverential performance, full of delicate nuance of expression and subtle changes from introspection to drama. David Wilson-Johnson makes his point by carefully thought-out accentuation and his fellow soloist has a lovely clear soprano voice. The choir is very good but would have benefited from being nearer to the microphone. The opening of In Paradisum with the young sopranos is outstanding – it’s very appealing.

Virgin Classics also offer an orchestral setting of the Cantique de Jean Racine – Hänssler has it with organ accompaniment – the Elégie for cello and orchestra, Pavane and the rarely heard Super flumina Babylonis. Hänssler has two short liturgical works: Tu es Petrus and Tantum ergo.

SHIRLEY RATCLIFFE Read the full review on Agora Classica


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