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Notes and Editorial Reviews
Davis makes as convincing a case as I have heard for the received, full orchestral version of the Requiem. The sound he produces is big but never luscious or over-coloured, the orchestral sonority centred on richly dark divided lower strings, to which the rare brass entries add impressive glowing weight without a hint of melodramatic blare. His tempos are slightly on the slow side, but beautifully sustained, and the music never drags (Plasson on HMV, only marginally slower overall, often sounds lethargic by comparison). Davis is greatly aided in maintaining the impulse of his reading by a marvellously disciplined choir, who sing with great purity and beauty of tone throughout (the sopranos exquisitely ethereal in the Sanctus and In
Paradisum) and with a most impressive control of sustained pianissimo. It is a serious and devout performance, too, easily avoiding the inherent risk that the work will sound more like a sequence of consolatory but rather sweet motets than a true Requiem: Fauré's brief hint of a Dies irae here has a solemn weight to it, and there is gravity as well as grace to the beautiful string melody of the Agnus Dei.
The still centre of the piece, the Pie Jesu, is a little too still for Lucia Popp: at this tempo (an ideal one otherwise) she encounters a touch of strain that leads her once or twice into slightly mannered phrasing, but she sings movingly, even so. Simon Estes is a bass, and a dramatic one, in a part that ideally needs a lyric baritone; he is effective enough in quiet passages (albeit audibly holding his voice in check) but Fauré's markings of sempref in the Libera me tempt him into operatic snarling, a tendency reinforced by his adoption of German-style Latin pronunciation (menace is required, no doubt, at the words "quando coeli movendi sunt", but not quite that implied by "kvando tsöli movendi sünt"). The chorus do this as well, of course, but less obtrusively. My only other reservation is that the organ, praiseworthily audible even in most of the tutti passages, sounds rather wheezy in its brief solo appearances.
In other respects Davis's performance takes its place among the best available, and if Teutonic Latin and Estes's gruffness do not bother you, you might place it at the very top of the list: for sheer subtlety and control Davis's chorus certainly has the edge of Frémaux's on HMV, and the Philips recording is quite outstandingly clear and spacious. For me, though, Rutter's account for Conifer, of his own reconstruction of the 1893 'chamber' version of the score, is in a class of its own for its simple rightness, its fidelity to Fauré's spirit. Unlike Rutter and Frémaux, by the way, Davis does not include the by now almost invariable fill-up, the Comique de Jean Racine.
-- Gramophone [4/1986]
reviewing the original LP release
Works on This Recording
Requiem, Op. 48 by Gabriel Fauré
Simon Estes (Bass),
Lucia Popp (Soprano)
Sir Colin Davis
Leipzig Radio Chorus,
Written: 1887-1890; France
Average Customer Review: ( 1 Customer Review )
A sonic delight June 16, 2012
By James Lowe (Owen Sound, ON) See All My Reviews
"Sir Colin Davis ues a full orchestra to full effect in playing this glorious requiem. This is not a minimalist version on ancient intruments but a full blown orchestrial version The recording is clear with lovely singing by the choir and Lucia Popp. Simon Estes comes over somewhat aggresively in the begining but mellows later. I have played this recording many times since receiving it and listen with delight to the lovely melodies Faure composed."