Author Topic: Durufle: Requiem, Op. 9  (Read 7950 times)

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Offline San Antone

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Durufle: Requiem, Op. 9
« on: June 02, 2013, 10:03:28 AM »
I am starting this thread in order to post my, and anyone else's, reviews of recordings of the Durufle Requiem.  I'll start with Durufle's own recording.



This recording is important as the only document of Durufle's conception of his Requiem.  He preferred the full orchestra version, which this is, and hand picked the mezzo soprano Helene Bouvier.  There are at least two iterations of this recording, the one pictured above and another one.  I would suggest looking for the other one (currently OOP) since the Apex disc apparently has the digital anti-copying code and will not scan for uploading to you computer.



Once you get used to the somewhat boxy audio quality, one notices that Durufle's takes the tempi briskly, and has the choir sing with restraint.   Mme. Bouvier sings the Pie Jesu with slight vibrato and with a sense of tragedy.   Half way through the piece, the voice is placed high in the range and reaches the emotional peak.  Bouvier handles this difficult section with aplomb where other voices take on a tightness hers remains supple and rich.

Durufle had an excellent understanding on how to blend the organ with an orchestra not only because of his gifts as an orchestrator but also because he had significant experience as an organ soloist with orchestras prior to composing the Requiem.  He premiered many French works such as the Poulenc Organ Concerto and was the organist of choice for conductors George Pretre and Charles Munch.  With his wife, Marie-Madeliene Chevalier at the console, the organ in this recording meshes perfectly with the orchestral writing and is quite beautifully done.

It is hard to argue for another full orchestra version since the only detraction of this one being the sub-par audio quality.

Offline San Antone

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Re: Durufle: Requiem, Op. 9
« Reply #1 on: June 02, 2013, 10:28:56 AM »
The Philip Ledger Requiem, featuring Janet Baker, is arguably the preferred version for choir and organ solo.  I prefer this version since it has a austere quality which I find completely suitable for the work.



It is hard to argue against Janet Baker, she brings a dark intensity to the Pie Jesu, fully in control, but she will bring you to the edge of your seat with this solo.  The mezzo voice can sound "hooty", for lack of a better word, and often the vibrato is deeper than I prefer.  That kind of voice is heard in this work all too often, and I find it unsuited to the tone of the music.  Baker's voice is almost perfect, but for those who prefer even less vibrato (myself included) there are other soloists that surpass her in this work, in my opinion, considering vocal quality alone.  That said, her performance puts the music across very strongly and with a sense that she absolutely believes every word she is singing.  A stunning performance.

The choir sings with clear and restrained beauty, but right at the edge of too much ambiance, and during some movements, e.g. Domine Jesu Christe the choir begins to echo back on itself.  Durufle's use of the chants is essentially pure, so much so that some have referred to this work as an arrangement and harmonization of the traditional Gregorian Rite for the Dead.  However, his setting utilizes subtle harmonies, transpositions and counterpoint such that if the choir is recorded with too much reverberation, it mars the texture and too much of his writing is lost in the sound.

Recommended, but there is at least one other organ solo version I prefer, although, I'd say most will find this has everything one wants in this work adn this arrangement.

Offline San Antone

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Re: Durufle: Requiem, Op. 9
« Reply #2 on: June 02, 2013, 10:54:15 AM »
There is really no "bad" performance of the Durufle Requiem, at least that is my opinion.  But most fall into a place which has caused me to go on a long quest for one where the mezzo-soprano uses less vibrato.  Of course the Janet Baker / Phillip Ledger recording is fantastic, and her darkly intense interpretation of the Piu Jesu is almost perfect but for the slight too much vibrato for my taste.

However, I did find one that comes closer to the kind of mezzo I prefer:



Requiem, Op. 9
Wilkinson, Clare - mezzo-soprano
Herford, Henry - baritone
Dawson, Catherine - cello
Williams, Mark - organ
Trinity College Choir, Cambridge 
Marlow, Richard - Conductor


Richard Marlowe has a long history with the Trinity Choir and sang as a boy soprano at the coronation of the queen.  He was director and formed the mixed choir in 1982 when after over 400 years they admitted women to Trinity College.  Clare Wilkinson comes very close to having the kind of quality I am seeking - but the recording as a whole falls slightly short for me to consider it the definitive recording.  Mr. Hereford is adequate to the task, but somehow one feels something is lacking in his delivery.  Durufle was quoted as suggesting that the parts usually given to a male soloist could just as easily be taken by the section, and did not advise hiring a soloist other than the mezzo.  Still most recordings include a baritone, or even a bass - including his own.

Tempos are brisk, but some may feel that the organ is too dominant in comparison to the choir.  However, in the Domine Jesu Christe where the organ could easily overpower the choir, the balance is fine with the choir projecting but without the hard edge some recordings exhibit in this movement.  There is a wonderful moment near the mid-point with the female voices singing somewhat distant and under the organ, in a haunting fashion that adds a beautiful quality to the music. 

It is hard to suggest buying this one instead of the Ledger, and I would only do that if someone preferred a mezzo with very light vibrato.  This recording would certainly be a good one to have along with the Ledger.  Also, it comes with all the music Durufle wrote for chorus, as opposed to a coupling with the Faure, which is often done.

Offline San Antone

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Re: Durufle: Requiem, Op. 9
« Reply #3 on: June 03, 2013, 06:53:36 AM »
You might not think of South Dakota as the place to go to hear a very fine performance of the Durufle Requiem, however, Brian A. Schmidt has led such a performance with the South Dakota Chorale and Jesse Eschbach at the organ.



Jesse Eschbach was a student of Marie-Madeliene Chevalier-Durufle and, as was the case for all of her students, benefited from comments about his lessons made by Durufle to her.  Both Durufle and his wife taught in their home on an orgue de salon and each could overhear the other's pupils and would comment to each other with their impressions.  Later in his life, and especially after the auto accident* which left him essentially housebound, he took very few students, but his wife was still very active, although she was involved in the accident along with him.  I know of at least one other of her students who has recorded a widely admired Requiem, and that is Dennis Keene.

Eschbach brings to this performance not only the interpretive authority of having learned the work with the composer's wife, and presumably much information from Durufle himself through her - but also, the organ registrations.

The South Dakota Choralesounded good, and Schmidt's tempos are all taken appropriately with very good and transparent textures achieved.  the recorded sound is rich and no marred by too much reflection, which is not surprising since the producer is Blanton Alspaugh, awarded a Producer of the Year Grammy in 2013.  This SACD disc was released in May, 2012.

Both soloists do a adequate job, although the mezzo sang with the beginnings of a wobble.  The Libera Me was handled with aplomb, and made a wonderful transition to the In Paradisum, the final movement.  This movement can take on a passive effect almost rendering it static, and the task is for the ensemble to achieve an energy level such that the audience remains engaged while experiencing the peaceful nature of the final movement.

The organ was built by the Bedient Organ Company, a firm from Nebraska specializing in fine hand built organs, finally completed in 2008, and the instrument sounded very good.  The disc is filled out with some imaginative pieces, a mixed group of short pieces all of which evoke spirituality and exploiting the chorus to great effect.

A very nice recording.



* Returning home form vacation their car was stuck by an intoxicated driver, in a Mercedes Benz traveling at 150 kph, leaving that driver dead and both Durufles seriously injured.  After ten months and several surgeries for both, Mme. Durufle was able to resume her duties as organist but Durufle was never able to return to public performance. He was able to keep his post at the Conservatory and continued teaching his Harmony class.

Offline k a rl h e nn i ng

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Re: Duruflé: Requiem, Op. 9
« Reply #4 on: June 03, 2013, 06:57:38 AM »
. . . The disc is filled out with some imaginative pieces, a mixed group of short pieces all of which evoke spirituality and exploiting the chorus to great effect.

The opening Russian (Old Church Slavonic, really ; ) motet, do you know the composer?

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Offline San Antone

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Re: Duruflé: Requiem, Op. 9
« Reply #5 on: June 03, 2013, 07:12:32 AM »
The opening Russian (Old Church Slavonic, really ; ) motet, do you know the composer?

Thanks!


No, but the piece is exquisite.  Odd for an Italian to be setting the Orthodox rite - and I wonder some about the origin of it.

Offline betterthanfine

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Re: Durufle: Requiem, Op. 9
« Reply #6 on: June 04, 2013, 11:40:57 PM »
The Gents released a recording of the choir + organ version a few years ago which I find absolutely beautiful. :)

Offline San Antone

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Re: Durufle: Requiem, Op. 9
« Reply #7 on: June 05, 2013, 01:56:25 AM »
The Gents released a recording of the choir + organ version a few years ago which I find absolutely beautiful. :)

I was not aware of that recording!  Thanks for the tip.   :)    I found some samples on the Channel Classics website and from what little I heard,  I could tell it one I will purchase.

Offline vandermolen

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Re: Durufle: Requiem, Op. 9
« Reply #8 on: June 05, 2013, 12:11:41 PM »
The Warner Apex CD is marvellous but I also love this version, surprisingly conducted by Michel Legrand, whom I would not have associated with Durufle - it's about the best performance I know. It is also available on the Budget Warner Elatus label and is around £2.00 on UK Amazon:

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Offline San Antone

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Re: Durufle: Requiem, Op. 9
« Reply #9 on: June 05, 2013, 12:16:54 PM »
The Warner Apex CD is marvellous but I also love this version, surprisingly conducted by Michel Legrand, whom I would not have associated with Durufle - it's about the best performance I know. It is also available on the Budget Warner Elatus label and is around £2.00 on UK Amazon:



I am familiar with that recording but have not heard it.   I may grab it since it might be bought very cheaply.

Offline vandermolen

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Re: Durufle: Requiem, Op. 9
« Reply #10 on: June 09, 2013, 11:19:27 AM »
I am familiar with that recording but have not heard it.   I may grab it since it might be bought very cheaply.

I don't think that you will regret it. There is a warmth and power about Michel Legrand's recording which I find very moving.  If you take the plunge let us know what you think.
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Offline San Antone

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Re: Durufle: Requiem, Op. 9
« Reply #11 on: June 11, 2013, 07:32:25 AM »


Requiem, Op. 9 - organ version

Jacqueline Mayeur - mezzo-soprano
Michel Piquemal - baritone
Frederic Dupuis - cello
Nicolas Pien - organ
Choeur de Chambre de Rouen  (mixed)
Daniel Bargier - Conductor

Introit.  Good tempo, not rushed, with the kind of pulse typical of Gregorian chant in which there is a flow but no sense of meter. 

Kyrie.  Controlled build up with the choir and organ reaching the climax without a sense of any difficulty. 

Domine Jesu Christe.  At over eight minutes, this movement is the first extended form in the work.  It is sometimes difficult for a conductor to pace it and not lose the momentum, and the quick paced section with organ filigree surrounding declarative choral passages often leave me with the impression that an ensemble was not in command of the music.  This group does not exhibit that problem.  This movement has the first solo for baritone; Michel Piquemal handles it well - however, possibly verging on the melodramatic.  The movement ends quietly, as it should, but I did not get the sense of a continuous arc from start to finish.

Sanctus.  Wonderfully done.

Pie Jesu.  The solo for mezzo-soprano is, for me, where I make my decision on a recording.  The quality of the voice, how is the vibrato, and, of course, the delivery of the emotional demands of vocal part can all add up to a marvelous performance, or something less satisfying, or even bothersome.  Subtly accompanied by organ and solo cello, Mme. Mayeur has a dark voice similar to Janet Baker’s and a quick vibrato, with no sign of wobble.  No complaints.

Agnus Dei.  After the Pie Jesu, this  ensemble movement incorporates canonical sections and sense of restless tonality moving through several modes with cadences on the major sixth degree.  This all adds up to a wonderful sense of light, leading appropriately to the next section.

Lux aeterna.  Oddly, the darkest movement of the work and one that makes the most demands on the ensemble the Lux aeterna can be another place where the performance fails or succeeds depending upon how well the choir manages the journey from the darkness to the climax.  Again, this group comes through nicely.

In Paradisum.  The the previous movement dissolves into the mystical peace of the final movement, with the work drifting into silence.

I consider this recording among the better ones and would recommend it.

Offline San Antone

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Re: Durufle: Requiem, Op. 9
« Reply #12 on: June 13, 2013, 04:01:16 AM »


Stene, Randi - mezzo-soprano
Skovhus, Bo - baritone
Brendstrup, Henrik - cello
Krogsoe, Kristian - organ
Aarhus Cathedral Choir 
Vocal Group Concert Clemens 
Seyer-Hansen, Carsten - Conductor

This recording includes all of the organ works as well as the Requiem, and was recorded from 2010-2012.  It began nicely with a lush organ sound and choir singing the Introit beautifully.  However, this impression did not last.  The choir and soloists do a good job with the work but the recording is marred by too distant miking which produced a level of reverberation that I find obscures the details of the work.  At times the organ, especially with the lower tones, creates mush.  There are other registration choices by the organist that are curious, that for me, were ugly.

Which is all too bad since it would have been worthwhile to have a 2-CD disc with all the organ works and a good performance of the Requiem.

Offline San Antone

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Re: Durufle: Requiem, Op. 9
« Reply #13 on: February 18, 2017, 06:33:34 PM »
A new recording of the Requiem which is nicely done.

Remembrance : Clare College Choir, Cambridge / Graham Ross



There is much to recommend in this recording of the Requiem (the 1948 version for choir and organ) released in the fall of 2016: beautiful singing by the choir, a fine balance between choir and organ, and Ross's overall interpretation.  The only defect according to my tastes are the soloists.   Jennifer Johnston utilizes far too much vibrato for me and Neal Davies is better, but his sections are better done, and intended by the composer to be taken by, the lower voices rather than a bass-baritone soloist.  However, most conductors ignore Durufle in this regard.

The real plus for this recording is Ross's decision to not include another work by Durufle, or the often paired Faure Requiem, but to choose a group of individual works that fit the mood of the Requiem perfectly and come from various periods.

Many people will not have a problem with the soloists and this recording is better then average.

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Re: Durufle: Requiem, Op. 9
« Reply #14 on: February 01, 2018, 06:35:51 PM »


For me, Matthew Best’s performance on Hyperion remains my personal benchmark for this masterpiece. I also prefer the Requiem arrangement that’s for soloists, chorus, small orchestra, and organ. You get the intimacy of the organ arrangement plus the lushness and fullness from the small orchestra. It’s kind of a middle ground between both of the afore mentioned arrangements. One of the main reasons I prefer the small orchestra version is because the one for full orchestra drowns out the vocalists/chorus. Best has some remarkable soloists for his recording: Ann Murray and Sir Thomas Allen. Also, the audio quality of Best’s recording is in a league of its’ own. But I’d expect no less from Hyperion.
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Offline San Antone

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Re: Durufle: Requiem, Op. 9
« Reply #15 on: February 06, 2018, 08:11:39 PM »


(mine has a different cover which I can't get to reproduce)

Durufle : Requiem, op. 9
Ensemble Vocal Jean Sourisse, Jean Sourisse (dir.), Vincent Warnier (organ), Catherine Cardin (mezzo), Jean-Louis Serre (baritone)



Very good recording: the choir and organist find a good balance, and Jean Sourisse directs with flowing movement and ensemble.  The soloists are good, but not stellar.  Overall, an almost too reverberant acoustic which mars the solo singing, especially in the "Piu Jesu".  But a good recording nonetheless.  The couplings of Messe " cum jubilo" and Quartre Motets, Notre Pere, make for a full disc.
« Last Edit: February 07, 2018, 04:17:26 AM by San Antone »

Offline San Antone

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Re: Durufle: Requiem, Op. 9
« Reply #16 on: February 07, 2018, 03:28:27 AM »


Duruflé : Requiem & Messe Cum jubilo
Westminster Cathedral Choir, James O'Donnell; Iain Simcock (organ); Aaron Webber (treble); Natalie Clein (cello); Simon Keenlyside (baritone)



Hyperion has released dozens of recordings by the Westminster Cathedral Choir, many led by James O'Donnell.  They can be relied upon to offer up exquisite choral singing and an always tasteful approach to whatever repertory they embrace.  Their recording of the Duruflé Requiem is no exception.  However, there will no doubt be some listeners who are put off by the boys, especially the treble soloist.  But I am not; I find Aaron Webber's performance of the "Pie Jesu" to be wonderful: chaste, devout and convincing.  Natalie Clein's cello supports him tenderly, with the requisite emotion apparent, but in check.  Organist Iain Simcock does his job superbly and the baritone soloist Simon Keenlyside offers one of the best performances in the "Domine Jesu Christe" (often the weak link in an op. 9 recording) I can remember.  Duruflé has been quoted, to the effect, that he prefers that the baritone movement be taken by the section and not a soloist.  But I think this was for practical/logistical, not necessarily artistic, reasons.

But the real star here is the choir . They create a seamless ensemble and sing as one instrument under James O'Donnell's direction.  If you can tolerate boys, this is a top drawer recording of this work.

Coupled with the Missa cum jublio, as is often the case, plus the four motets on Gregorian themes and Notre Pere, this all Duruflé disc is one of Hyperion's best.


Offline vandermolen

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Re: Durufle: Requiem, Op. 9
« Reply #17 on: February 07, 2018, 05:37:59 AM »
A new recording of the Requiem which is nicely done.

Remembrance : Clare College Choir, Cambridge / Graham Ross



There is much to recommend in this recording of the Requiem (the 1948 version for choir and organ) released in the fall of 2016: beautiful singing by the choir, a fine balance between choir and organ, and Ross's overall interpretation.  The only defect according to my tastes are the soloists.   Jennifer Johnston utilizes far too much vibrato for me and Neal Davies is better, but his sections are better done, and intended by the composer to be taken by, the lower voices rather than a bass-baritone soloist.  However, most conductors ignore Durufle in this regard.

The real plus for this recording is Ross's decision to not include another work by Durufle, or the often paired Faure Requiem, but to choose a group of individual works that fit the mood of the Requiem perfectly and come from various periods.

Many people will not have a problem with the soloists and this recording is better then average.
I like the look of this CD as well. Especially the coupling - the Tavener, memorably performed at Princess Diana's funeral. Did you ever hear the performance of the Durufle from Michel Legrand, which is my favourite although I gave never been disappointed by CDs of the Requiem in its various versions.
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Offline San Antone

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Re: Durufle: Requiem, Op. 9
« Reply #18 on: February 07, 2018, 05:51:35 AM »
I like the look of this CD as well. Especially the coupling - the Tavener, memorably performed at Princess Diana's funeral. Did you ever hear the performance of the Durufle from Michel Legrand, which is my favourite although I gave never been disappointed by CDs of the Requiem in its various versions.

I've still got the Legrand CD in my Shopping Cart, but shortly after you mentioned it I turned my attention to other composers/periods.  Now that I am back into op. 9 I plan on ordering it, as well as, a few others I've wanted to purchase as hard copies.

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Re: Durufle: Requiem, Op. 9
« Reply #19 on: February 07, 2018, 06:10:46 AM »


For me, Matthew Best’s performance on Hyperion remains my personal benchmark for this masterpiece. I also prefer the Requiem arrangement that’s for soloists, chorus, small orchestra, and organ. You get the intimacy of the organ arrangement plus the lushness and fullness from the small orchestra. It’s kind of a middle ground between both of the afore mentioned arrangements. One of the main reasons I prefer the small orchestra version is because the one for full orchestra drowns out the vocalists/chorus. Best has some remarkable soloists for his recording: Ann Murray and Sir Thomas Allen. Also, the audio quality of Best’s recording is in a league of its’ own. But I’d expect no less from Hyperion.

I listened to this recording again this morning and depart somewhat from your opinion.  While having three versions of this work is fine, sometimes a conductor can get carried away with the added weight of the ensemble, imo.  This recording suffers, again imo, from too much timpani and trumpets.  At times, during the "Sanctus", I was reminded of the 20th Century Fox movie intro.  Also, the movements with the baritone were disappointing, imo, not only because these were the movements in which the timpani were featured but also Mr. Allen was over the top, imo - emphatically rolling his "Rs" and imbuing his solo with altogether too much "drama".

Durufle based this work on Gregorian chant, so much so, that he has been criticized that it is not so much a new composition as an arrangement and harmonized version of the traditional chant for the requiem mass.  That being the case, drama and anything remotely approaching bombast are anathema to the effect and flow of the chant.  This is the primary reason why I find the organ-only versions to be preferable to either of the two orchestrated ones.  I am looking for austerity and a meditative ambiance, which most versions for organ and choir seem to accomplish naturally than those with the added instruments.

However, the sections of this recording that do not feature the timpani and trumpets are done very nicely, but I prefer the other Hyperion recording that I highlighted a few posts earlier.

I know, "to each his own" and I am glad you admire this work, consider it a masterpiece, and enjoy Best's recording.  That's the important thing.