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Durufle: Requiem; Grunenwald / Backhouse, Vasari Singers

Release Date: 06/30/2009 
Label:  Signum U.k.   Catalog #: 163   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Maurice DurufléJean-Jacques Grunenwald
Performer:  Sarah ConnollyChristopher MaltmanRobert CohenJeremy Filsell
Conductor:  Jeremy Backhouse
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vasari Singers
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 14 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

DURUFLÉ Requiem. 4 Motets on Gregorian Themes. GRUNENWALD Tu es Petrus. Psalm 129, “De profundis” Jeremy Backhouse, cond; Sarah Connolly (mez); Christopher Maltman (bar); Robert Cohen (vc); Jeremy Filsell (org); Vasari Singers SIGNUM 163 (74:08 Text and Translation)

It’s been a while since a new Duruflé Requiem has come my way—nine years, in Read more fact. Too long, but worth the wait. Be advised that this is the stripped-down version, accompanied by the organ only, except for the “Pie Jesu,” in which the mezzo-soprano is paired with an obbligato cello. While I prefer the full orchestra version, the work loses splendor only marginally with the more modest accompaniment. Indeed, Backhouse’s singers and Filsell’s organ manage to build mighty climaxes in the Sanctus’s “Hosanna”s and the “Libera me” that distinguish Duruflé’s Requiem from that of Fauré. However, most of Duruflé’s Requiem is, like its distinguished predecessor, a contemplative work, and Backhouse captures its mystery, as well. Sarah Connolly’s “Pie Jesu”—with Robert Cohen—is nothing short of mesmerizing. Listeners interested in an organ version of this work should find this most satisfactory.

Signum has chosen an unusual partner for Duruflé on this disc. Jean-Jacques Grunenwald (1911–1982) was, like Duruflé, an active organist in mid-20th-century Paris. While Duruflé concentrated on church compositions, Grunenwald branched out, improbably, into film music, composing scores for 23 films. Compared with many film composers, that may not sound like much, but compared with Duruflé, he was positively prolific. Grunenwald is represented in this program by two works, a two-minute accompanied motet, Tu es Petrus , and a major work, Psalm 129, “De profundis.” This is my introduction to Grunenwald, who seems to have less interest in counterpoint than in creating great splashes of Nemoesque sound. (Not Nemo the adorable fish, but the Capt. Nemo of 20,000 Leagues under the Sea fame.) The Psalm is a three-part work, with an ominous opening movement, a brief and quiet second movement, and an uplifting finale. It’s hardly a match for Duruflé’s masterpiece, but it’s certainly worth a hearing. Try it; you may like it.

If I have one bone to pick with this release, it’s actually one of its supposed strengths. I speak of the dynamic range, which ranges from barely audible to ear shattering. Am I alone in wondering whether such fidelity may come close to being too much of a good thing? Bottom line: Connolly’s “Pie Jesu” alone may be worth the price of admission, but Backhouse’s Requiem should seal the deal.

FANFARE: George Chien
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Works on This Recording

Requiem, Op. 9 by Maurice Duruflé
Performer:  Sarah Connolly (Mezzo Soprano), Christopher Maltman (Baritone), Robert Cohen (Cello)
Conductor:  Jeremy Backhouse
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vasari Singers
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1947; Paris, France 
Length: 40 Minutes 38 Secs. 
Tu es Petrus by Jean-Jacques Grunenwald
Performer:  Jeremy Filsell (Organ)
Conductor:  Jeremy Backhouse
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vasari Singers
Period: 20th Century 
Length: 2 Minutes 15 Secs. 
Motets (4) on Gregorian themes, Op. 10 by Maurice Duruflé
Conductor:  Jeremy Backhouse
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vasari Singers
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1960; France 
Length: 7 Minutes 22 Secs. 
Psalm 129 "De Profundis" by Jean-Jacques Grunenwald
Conductor:  Jeremy Backhouse
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vasari Singers
Period: 20th Century 
Psaume CXXIX (De Profundis) by Jean-Jacques Grunenwald
Conductor:  Jeremy Backhouse
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vasari Singers
Period: 20th Century 
Length: 22 Minutes 23 Secs. 

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