Review by: Robert Levine
Artistic Quality: 9
Sound Quality: 10
Conductors coming to the Fauré Requiem have choices: The original, 1888 version with only five movements of the eventual seven and very minimal instrumentation; the more commonly performed 1893 chamber version, scored with only the lower strings (violins reserved for the In Paridisum movement), plus harp, timpani, organ, horns, and trumpets, but without woodwinds; and the 1900 revision for full orchestra. Philippe Herreweghe recorded the 1893 version several years ago; here he opts for the full-orchestra setting. But there’s a nice hitch: it’s played on period instruments and uses a harmonium instead of an organ. It comes across as much leaner than other recorded “full” versions (i.e., Chung’s on DG, Dutoit’s on Decca), and indeed the details of the “big” score are nice to hear.
This work has been accused of being too sentimental, and in fact it’s just that syrupiness that can make it appealing. But Herreweghe keeps the tempos on the quick side (quicker than his chamber reading) while emphasizing some of the score’s darker moments–the “Dies irae” in the Libera me is wonderfully grim–and the lack of syrup is very effective. The use of a harmonium (approved by Fauré) adds even more flavor to the already emphasized winds, and the singing, from soloists (he uses a soprano, not a boy treble) and chorus is ideal. The Latin text is sung with a decidedly French accent, and this is apparently so special that it’s written about in the accompanying booklet.
The Franck D minor symphony, a sort-of grand bonus, is handsomely played, also on period instruments, which allow this sometimes too-orchestrated work to seem more transparent, more classical. If we miss the echt-Romanticism (and vaguely too-earthy schmaltz present in, say, Leonard Bernstein’s recording on Sony) for which the work is known, there’s a clarity here that makes up for it. This is a fine release: For the Fauré it seems the best of both worlds (for a decent, cheap “chamber” performance, go to Naxos) and the Franck, while (arguably) unidiomatic, is certainly a pleasant complement. [5/22/2002]
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Recording Details:Reference Recording: Franck: Monteux (RCA), Fauré: this one
GABRIEL FAURÉ - Requiem Op. 48 (version for large orchestra)
CÉSAR FRANCK - Symphony in D minor