Fauré once described his requiem mass as “gentle in temperament, as I am myself.” He believed that a funeral service should provide comfort and solace to those in mourning, and therefore chose the liturgical texts “which are prayer-like, which plead for something and which look towards the heavens rather than towards hell.” For example, Fauré abandoned the fiery “Dies Irae” except for a fleeting appearance in the “Libera me” and conductor Paavo Järvi, despite large forces at his disposal, respects Fauré’s intention, bringing forth the transcendent beauty of the piece by using a light touch throughout. At the start, the orchestra and chorus are barely perceptible with the subsequent crescendo sublimely subtle and gradual. It is within the harmonic framework that the composer imbues this work with emotion and Järvi ensures a warm and lush delivery through the subtle metamorphoses. Warm, rich and deep tones from baritone Matthias Goerne mirror the orchestration perfectly, while a delightfully unconventional twist is provided by engaging the pure, yet mature timbre of countertenor Philippe Jaroussky for the “Pie Jesu.”
The other choral works included on this CD are the deeply inspirational and gorgeously performed Cantique de Jean Racine, the playfully quirky Pavane and the recording debut of a youthful (and hence more volatile) work, Super flumina Babylonis (By the rivers of Babylon). There is one instrumental work, the magnificent Elégie for cello and orchestra, featuring Orchestre de Paris’ superb principal, Eric Picard.
Concert Notes: The Hart House Singers present Fauré’s Requiem and Tavener’s Three Songs with soloists and orchestra under David Arnot-Johnston, in the Great Hall, Hart House, on March 24. The Choir of the Church of St. Nicholas Birchcliffe features Fauré’s Requiem and Messe Bass in a programme of music for Lent on March 30 at 7:30pm. The Amadeus Choir will perform Fauré’s Requiem at All Saints Kingsway Anglican Church at 4pm on April 1.