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Accentus - Faure, Dusapin, Brahms: Requiems; Haydn; Seven Last Words Of Christ, Transcriptions / Equilbey

Faure / Haydn / Brahms / Dusapin / Accentus
Release Date: 06/26/2012 
Label:  Naive   Catalog #: 5301   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Gabriel FauréFranz Joseph HaydnSamuel BarberGerard Pesson,   ... 
Performer:  Stèphane DegoutChristophe HenryLuc HérySandrine Piau,   ... 
Conductor:  Laurence Equilbey
Orchestra/Ensemble:  AccentusMaitrise de ParisNational Orchestra d'Ile de France,   ... 
Number of Discs: 5 
Recorded in: Stereo 
In Stock: Usually ships in 24 hours.  

Notes and Editorial Reviews

Founded by Laurence Equilbey to interpret major works of the a cappella repertoire and to perform contemporary works, Accentus is an acclaimed professional ensemble of 32 singers performing in major French and international festivals. Accentus has sung with prestigious orchestras and conductors, including Pierre Boulez, Jonathan Nott, Christoph Eschenbach, Orchestre de Paris, Ensemble Intercontemporain, Orchestra of the Opéra de Rouen-Haute Normandie, Concerto Köln and Akademie für Alte Musik.

Laurence Equilbey is also involved in opera productions and contemporary creations including a noted production of The Barber of Seville by Rossini at the Festival d'Aix-en-Provence. This box set is co-produced by the
Read more Cité de la Musique. He continued his residence at the Opéra de Rouen / Haute Normandie, which focuses on a cappella concerts and concert choir and orchestra.

Equilbey is also the inventor of "e-tuner", an electronic method for tuning quarter tones and 1/3 tones for ensembles that wish to perform certain modern or world music. Outside of conventional classical music, she is also assists in the Private Domain Project, which includes works by Émilie Simon, Murcof, Para One, and Marc Collin of Nouvelle Vague. In 2008, Equilbey was made a Chevalier of the Legion of Honour of France.

R E V I E W:

"This box assembles five discs from the discography of Laurence Equilbey and her fine choir, Accentus. The first disc of theirs that I encountered for review was an impressive one devoted to Rachmaninov (review). As the discs contained in this box are ones I’d not previously heard I was interested to listen to them. We’ve reviewed most of these discs before and I’ve included links to those reviews in what follows. I’ve also included the catalogue numbers of the original releases in the track listing for ease of reference. The discs have been boxed up in their original packaging so the booklets of notes and texts are retained in full.

One thought does strike me, I’m afraid, which is to wonder how much thought has been given to the needs of collectors in putting this box together. To say the least the contents appear rather randomly selected and there doesn’t seem to be any common thread running through the selection - other than the artists themselves. Someone who wants, say, the Brahms and Fauré discs may not want some of the others.

The disc that hasn’t been reviewed on MusicWeb International, so far as I can see, is the one that contains the Haydn work. For this the choir is joined by the Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin who play on period instruments. Les Sept Dernières Paroles du Christ en Croix, to use the French title employed in the packaging of this French disc, was originally conceived as an orchestral work (1786) which the composer arranged subsequently for various different forces, including, finally, in this choral version, which dates from 1795. What I didn’t know until reading the very interesting booklet note, was that Haydn was only inspired to make this version after hearing, quite by chance, someone else’s attempt to fashion his work into a cantata. The result is a work which inevitably is very serious in tone yet even in a serious work Haydn’s invention still shines through, not least in the orchestral scoring. The vocal writing doesn’t break any startling new ground but it’s always impressive. Laurence Equilbey leads a spirited and impressive performance. Her choir sings very well indeed - as they do throughout all five discs in this box - and she has the services of a good solo quartet while the orchestral contribution is first class. This is an excellent account of Haydn’s very thoughtful work that I’m delighted to add to my collection.


The disc devoted to choral transcriptions was the subject of reviews by Neil Horner and Gwyn Parry Jones. The Barber piece is the best known arrangement; the composer himself made it, using his celebrated Adagio. I love the original piece, whether in its string orchestra or string quartet form but I’ve never thought that it really works as a choral transcription. I believe the main problem is that the high-lying climaxes put a strain on the vocal compass of even the best choirs - and Accentus is one of the best. Most of the other arrangements are by Clytus Gottwald (b. 1925). I’ve come across some of his arrangements before and there’s no doubt that, of their type, they seem skilled and effective. The trouble is that I don’t believe they add much, if anything, to the original music. There are, to be sure, some lovely choral textures in his arrangements of the songs by Wolf and Berg. His arrangement of one of Ravel’s Trois poèmes de Stéphane Mallarmé gives us Ravel through a Ligeti prism, which is quite interesting. However, where I part company with him completely is in his arrangement of Mahler’s sublime Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen. Surely the word “Ich” in the title is there for a reason? The vocal line, sung by a lone singer - “Ich” - should stand out from the accompaniment, whether that’s provided by a piano or by orchestra. How can it stand out when everyone involved in the performance is singing? Frankly, it’s nonsense, and the arrangement by Gérard Pesson of the Adagietto from Mahler’s Fifth Symphony is no better. To be honest, well should have been left alone in both cases. There are a couple of arrangements of Chopin piano pieces, made for Accentus, by Franck Krawczyk. I don’t think either of them works particularly well and as for the ghastly pretentiousness of Krawczyk’s note in the booklet, words fail me! Knut Nystedt’s Immortal Bach,on the other hand, is a brilliantly inventive homage to Bach; it’s a pity some of the other pieces on this disc aren’t up to that level of inspiration; Accentus give a splendid performance of it.

The performance of Fauré’s Requiem uses the 1893 version for small orchestra and organ. I presume, since his name is mentioned in the very good booklet notes, that the edition by Jean-Michel Nectoux is used, though this isn’t specifically stated in the documentation. The recording was made in the Basilique Sainte Clotilde in Paris and it’s good to hear the church’s Cavaillé-Coll organ, originally built in 1858, making a good contribution to the sonorities. The performance is a good one, if not terribly distinctive. The choir sings very well, as one has come to expect by now. However, I thought that the performance lacked fire in its belly at the admittedly few dramatic points. It all seems very cultivated - a performance without a hair out of place, if you will - but somewhat lacking in tension and feeling, despite the excellence of the execution. The baritone, Stéphane Degout, has a fairly light voice and he gives relaxed, smooth accounts of his two solos. Sandrine Piau is an ethereal soloist in the ‘Pie Jesu’, her voice light and clear, though some might wish, as do I, for a bit more warmth and roundness in the tone.

My overall impression is that this is in many ways a beautiful performance of the Requiem and though the catalogue isn’t exactly short of versions of which that could be said I think anyone acquiring this performance will enjoy it. The disc is pretty short measure; the only other item is the lovely Cantique de Jean Racine. This is given in the 1905 version for full orchestra. Personally, I greatly prefer the original version with organ accompaniment; larger forces deprive this little gem of a piece of some of its intimacy. That said, this Accentus performance is very good indeed and I appreciated very much the flowing tempo that Laurence Equilbey sets. One has heard many performances in the past that, due to a stodgy tempo have sounded sanctimonious; this reading is definitely not in that category. Readers may be interested to read either our review by Robert Hugill or the review by Kevin Sutton.

The final disc contains Ein deutsches Requiem by Brahms. It’s given in the composer’s own arrangement of the accompaniment for two pianos. This is described as the ‘London version’ because what is believed to be the first known performance took place in the house of a wealthy music lover in London in 1871, two years after Brahms made the piano arrangement at the request of his publisher. I love the Brahms Requiem but I’d not heard this version of the score before. The first time I listened I confess that I was unimpressed: unworthy thoughts of the rehearsal room went through my mind on hearing the piano accompaniment. To anyone who repeats my mistake all I can say is please persevere.

In the first place this is not like hearing the work in rehearsal because the accompaniment is not a reduction for one piano for rehearsal purposes. Instead the accompaniment is, in the words of the booklet annotator, “a transformation of the whole work (including the voice parts) into a piano composition in its own right.” Mind you, that statement is slightly undermined by the following comment right at the end of the note; “In this performance those passages of the piano part that are rendered superfluous by the presence of voices are omitted.” This seems slightly strange to me: Brahms presumably didn’t consider what, it seems, is some doubling of the vocal parts to be “superfluous” so why tamper with his own arrangement? I’m unclear, therefore, to what extent Brahms’ arrangement has been modified. What I can say, however, is that after coming to terms with the lack of an orchestra - which I did at the second time of listening - the results are, frankly, revelatory.

It’s true that one loses some weight of tone - though not as much as you might imagine - and, of course, one is deprived of orchestral colour. However, the gains in terms of clarity, indeed luminosity of texture, more than outweigh these losses. And after a while such is the skill and sensitivity of the two pianists, Brigitte Engerer and Boris Berezovsky, that I was completely convinced. Once one adjusts to the scale of the performance the results are deeply satisfying and Brahms’s masterpiece emerges in a new light. The chief gain is in intimacy. That’s not to say that the big moments go for naught but, working with a choir of forty - ten to each part - Laurence Equilbey is able to bring the music close to the listener in a way that even the best of the traditional orchestral performances can’t quite achieve. My notes are full of appreciative comments but let me just share a couple. The big fugues that close the second, third and sixth movements all come off remarkably well. The pianos can’t emulate an orchestra, of course - nor do the players try so to do - but what actually happens is that the percussive nature of the instruments drives the music along - for instance in ‘Die Erlöseten des Herrn’ - and not only does one hear the choral parts clearly but every strand in the accompaniment is audible too. I particularly liked the fugue, ‘Herr, Du bist würdig’ and within that passage loved the lyrical way the phrases come across at ‘Denn Du hast alle Dinge erschaffen’. And before we reach that fugue, sample the bite - and especially the running bass in the accompaniment - in the fiery passage, ‘Der Tod ist verschlungen in den Sieg’. At the other end of the scale, as it were, the famous fourth movement, ‘Wie lieblich sind Deine Wohnungen’, emerges with delicacy and luminosity.

The soloists are good. Stéphane Degout may not match some of his more illustrious rivals on disc; for one thing his voice is too light for that, I think. However, within the scale of this performance he makes a pleasing contribution. Generally, Sandrine Piau sings the gorgeous soprano solo well though she blots her copybook a couple of times. I’m almost certain that she snatches a breath after the word “nun” in her very first phrase, ‘Ihr habt nun Traurigkeit’. If she doesn’t then at least the phrase isn’t seamless and she does something similar and to the same words at 3:57. Overall, however, this is one of the most beautiful and consolatory performances of Ein deutsches Requiem that I’ve encountered and I’m delighted that this box has given me the opportunity to hear it. We have carried an earlier review of this disc by Anne Ozorio.

So, this box is rather a mixed bag and I’ve discussed each disc in a little more detail than I might otherwise have done in order to give prospective purchaser an idea of what they might be buying. My own view is that the Brahms and Haydn discs are highly desirable acquisitions and, though not a first choice, the Fauré disc also offers much pleasure. The other two discs exert far less appeal to me but if the repertoire is attractive you can invest with confidence for the recorded sound is consistently good, each disc is well documented and, above all, the standard of performance by Accentus is consistently very high indeed."

-- John Quinn, MusicWeb International

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Works on This Recording

1.
Requiem, Op. 48 by Gabriel Fauré
Performer:  Stèphane Degout (Baritone), Christophe Henry (Organ), Luc Héry (Violin),
Sandrine Piau (Soprano)
Conductor:  Laurence Equilbey
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Accentus,  Maitrise de Paris,  National Orchestra d'Ile de France
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1887-1890; France 
2.
Cantique de Jean Racine, Op. 11 by Gabriel Fauré
Performer:  Sandrine Piau (Soprano), Luc Héry (Violin), Stèphane Degout (Baritone),
Christophe Henry (Organ)
Conductor:  Laurence Equilbey
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Accentus,  Maitrise de Paris,  National Orchestra d'Ile de France
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1865; France 
3.
Seven last words of Christ on the Cross, H 20 no 2 by Franz Joseph Haydn
Performer:  Harry Van der Kamp (Bass), Sandrine Piau (Soprano), Ruth Sandhoff (Mezzo Soprano),
Robert Getchell (Countertenor)
Conductor:  Laurence Equilbey
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Academy for Ancient Music Berlin,  Accentus
Period: Classical 
Written: 1795-1796; Eszterhazá, Hungary 
4.
Agnus Dei, Op. 11 by Samuel Barber
Conductor:  Laurence Equilbey
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Accentus
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1967; USA 
Date of Recording: 02/2001 
Venue:  Arsenal Concert Hall, Metz, France 
Length: 7 Minutes 11 Secs. 
Language: Latin 
5.
Kein deutscher Himmel by Gerard Pesson
Performer:  Solange Añorga (Soprano), Hélène Moulin (Alto), Jean-François Chiama (Tenor),
Jean-François Lombard (Tenor)
Conductor:  Laurence Equilbey
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Accentus
Period: 20th Century 
Date of Recording: 02/2001 
Venue:  Arsenal Concert Hall, Metz, France 
Length: 9 Minutes 8 Secs. 
Language: German 
6.
Rückert Lieder (5): no 3, Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen by Gustav Mahler
Performer:  Solange Añorga (Soprano)
Conductor:  Laurence Equilbey
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Accentus
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1901-1902; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 02/2001 
Venue:  Arsenal Concert Hall, Metz, France 
Length: 6 Minutes 4 Secs. 
Language: German 
7.
Immortal Bach by Knut Nystedt
Performer:  Nicholas Kern (Tenor), Pierre Jeannot (Bass), Pascale Costes (Soprano),
Catherine Ravenne (Alto)
Conductor:  Laurence Equilbey
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Accentus
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1988; Norway 
Date of Recording: 02/2001 
Venue:  Arsenal Concert Hall, Metz, France 
Length: 6 Minutes 30 Secs. 
Language: German 
8.
Lulajze, Jesuniu by Franck Krawczyck
Conductor:  Laurence Equilbey
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Accentus
Period: 20th Century 
Date of Recording: 02/2001 
Venue:  Arsenal Concert Hall, Metz, France 
Length: 4 Minutes 39 Secs. 
Language: Polish 
9.
Early Songs (7): no 3, Die Nachtigall by Alban Berg
Performer:  Solange Añorga (Soprano)
Conductor:  Laurence Equilbey
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Accentus
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1905-1908; Austria 
Date of Recording: 02/2001 
Venue:  Arsenal Concert Hall, Metz, France 
Length: 2 Minutes 23 Secs. 
Language: German 
10.
Les angélus by Claude Debussy
Conductor:  Laurence Equilbey
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Accentus
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1891; France 
Date of Recording: 02/2001 
Venue:  Arsenal Concert Hall, Metz, France 
Length: 2 Minutes 27 Secs. 
Language: French 
11.
Poèmes (3) de Stéphane Mallarmé: no 1, Soupir by Maurice Ravel
Conductor:  Laurence Equilbey
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Accentus
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1913; France 
Date of Recording: 02/2001 
Venue:  Arsenal Concert Hall, Metz, France 
Length: 3 Minutes 44 Secs. 
Language: French 
12.
Mörike Lieder: no 7, Das verlassene Mägdlein by Hugo Wolf
Conductor:  Laurence Equilbey
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Accentus
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1888; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 02/2001 
Venue:  Arsenal Concert Hall, Metz, France 
Length: 3 Minutes 45 Secs. 
Language: German 
13.
Mörike Lieder: no 23, Auf ein altes Bild by Hugo Wolf
Conductor:  Laurence Equilbey
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Accentus
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1888; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 02/2001 
Venue:  Arsenal Concert Hall, Metz, France 
Length: 2 Minutes 28 Secs. 
Language: German 
14.
Lacrimosa by Franck Krawczyck
Conductor:  Laurence Equilbey
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Accentus
Period: 20th Century 
Date of Recording: 02/2001 
Venue:  Arsenal Concert Hall, Metz, France 
Length: 3 Minutes 56 Secs. 
Language: Latin 
15.
German Requiem, Op. 45 by Johannes Brahms
Performer:  Stèphane Degout (Baritone), Sandrine Piau (Soprano), Brigitte Engerer (Piano),
Boris Berezovsky (Piano)
Conductor:  Laurence Equilbey
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Accentus
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1854-1868; Austria 
Language: German 
16.
Granum Sinapis by Pascal Dusapin
Performer:  Kaoli Isshiki (Soprano)
Conductor:  Laurence Equilbey
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Accentus
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1992-1997; France 
17.
Umbrae mortis by Pascal Dusapin
Conductor:  Laurence Equilbey
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Accentus
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1997; France 
18.
Dona eis by Pascal Dusapin
Performer:  Solange Añorga (Soprano), Kaoli Isshiki (Soprano)
Conductor:  Laurence Equilbey
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Accentus,  Ars Nova Ensemble
Period: 20th Century 
Written: by 1999; France 

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