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Saint-Saëns: Requiem, Partsongs / Fasolis, Swiss Italian Orchestra


Release Date: 07/27/2004 
Label:  Chandos   Catalog #: 10214   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Camille Saint-Saëns
Performer:  Luca LombardoFrancesco CeraMarie-Paule DottiNicolas Testé,   ... 
Conductor:  Diego Fasolis
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Italian Switzerland Radio/TV ChorusOrchestra della Svizzera Italiana
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 13 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

A number of years ago, while browsing through the bins in a used records shop, I came upon a French RCA pressing of a requiem by Camille Saint-Saëns, and I giggled aloud. Until that moment, I was unaware that Saint-Saëns had written a requiem, and for some reason I never imagined that he, of all composers, would have. It seemed somehow incongruous that a man who disdained religion—“When I hear from the pulpit the language of the Opéra-comique, I shall provide the appropriate music, but not before”—would turn his attention to one of the central liturgical texts of the Catholic Church. Yet I suppose it really ought not to have come as such a surprise, considering that for nearly 20 years he held the prestigious post of Read more organist at the Church of the Madeleine in Paris.

Charles Camille Saint-Saëns (1835–1921) was nothing if not a mass of quirks and contradictions. Equally loved and hated, he exacted revenge on his critics by outliving all of them. Like Tchaikovsky, who attempted, with tragicomic consequences, to deny his homosexuality with a sham marriage, Saint-Saëns likewise attempted to submerge his own homosexuality in a similar manner, with consequences only slightly more comical but considerably more tragic. On their wedding night, he promptly packed up his new bride, one Marie-Laure Truffot, and sent her off to live with his mother. Despite his neglect, he did father two children with her, both of whom died within six weeks of each other in 1878 under somewhat suspicious circumstances. One fell out of a window. An accident? Perhaps, but Saint-Saëns didn’t think so, and blamed Marie, thereafter rejecting her completely. Though deeply attached to his mother, the composer found her death in 1888 in large measure a liberating event. No longer inhibited by guilt or shame about his sexuality, Saint-Saëns now traveled extensively throughout Europe, Russia, the US, South America, and Sri Lanka, accompanied by his male servant and his pet dogs. Then he set sail for Africa with an entourage of young, brawny deckhands, dying in Algiers at the advanced age of 86, no doubt with a smile on his face.

This is the background against which Saint-Saëns composed his Requiem in the amazing space of eight days, while sequestered in a hotel in Switzerland in 1878. Its stimulus was the death of a friend, Albert Libon, who had bequeathed 100,000 francs to the composer. When I brought my latest prize—the aforementioned LP—home with me, I hadn’t a clue what to expect. It was with the Orchestre Lyrique de l’O.R.T.F. and the Ensemble Choral “Contrepoint,” conducted by Jean-Gabriel Gaussens. I’ve hung on to it, despite having since acquired two other recordings on CD.

I am not going to tell you that this is the greatest requiem ever written, but I am going to tell you that it is gorgeous. In ensemble, dimensions, and spirit, it is not one of the “big” settings, like the Berlioz or the Verdi requiems. Both its forces and ambitions are more modest, placing it closer in many ways to Fauré’s timeless masterpiece. But unlike the Fauré, Saint-Saëns’s work is not soft-spoken, understated, or ethereal. It is quite dramatic and emotionally wrenching, the Agnus Dei being particularly overwhelming in that regard. But what really grabbed me—and still does every time I hear it—is the sensuality (there is no other word for it) that pours forth at the Te decet hymnus, not far from the beginning. The sweetest tenor solo you can imagine, accompanied by strings and harp, is gradually joined by the other vocal soloists and then the choir, to open up into the most glorious song of praise. The opening motif, an upward sweeping seventh in the strings, recurs again and again throughout the work in ever-changing guises, finally reaching, in the Agnus Dei, what must surely be one of the most grief-stricken cries of anguish in all of music. The final Lux aeterna could melt stone.

Available listings of the Requiem are few and far between, and not easy to come by; nor do the ones I know realize the full potential of this exquisite work. A version on the Cala label, conducted by Geoffrey Simon and coupled with another thoroughly unnecessary and routine run-through of Saint-Saëns’s “Organ” Symphony, has poor sound and not very sympathetic sounding singing. I also once had another disc in my collection—I seem to recall it was on ADDA, BNL, or some other obscure French label—but it was even less satisfactory than the Cala, so I disposed of it. The new Chandos of this inexplicably neglected work is thus doubly welcome, for not only is Chandos widely distributed and readily available, but the performance is truly outstanding and the sound excellent.

The remainder of the CD is filled out with a generous selection of pieces for a cappella choir and for solo voices with piano accompaniment, shining a spotlight on an area of Saint-Saëns’s output we don’t often get to hear. None of these pieces comes within a mile of the main offering on the disc, but Saint-Saëns was one of those composers, like Mendelssohn, who was incapable of turning out anything that was less than highly polished and immediately attractive. If you have never heard Saint-Saëns’s Requiem before—and I’m guessing that many, if not most, of you haven’t, I implore you to rush out and grab this. You will be stunned.
Jerry Dubins, FANFARE Read less

Works on This Recording

1.
Requiem, Op. 54 by Camille Saint-Saëns
Performer:  Luca Lombardo (Tenor), Francesco Cera (Organ), Marie-Paule Dotti (Soprano),
Nicolas Testé (Bass), Guillemette Laurens (Mezzo Soprano)
Conductor:  Diego Fasolis
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Italian Switzerland Radio/TV Chorus,  Orchestra della Svizzera Italiana
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1878; France 
Language: Latin 
2.
Romance du soir, Op. 118 by Camille Saint-Saëns
Conductor:  Diego Fasolis
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Italian Switzerland Radio/TV Chorus
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1902; France 
Language: French 
3.
Deux choeurs, Op. 68: no 2, Les fleurs et les arbes by Camille Saint-Saëns
Conductor:  Diego Fasolis
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Italian Switzerland Radio/TV Chorus
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1882; France 
4.
Deux choeurs, Op. 141: no 1, Des pas dans l'allée by Camille Saint-Saëns
Conductor:  Diego Fasolis
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Italian Switzerland Radio/TV Chorus
Period: Romantic 
Language: French 
5.
Deux choeurs, Op. 68: no 1, Calme des nuits by Camille Saint-Saëns
Conductor:  Diego Fasolis
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Italian Switzerland Radio/TV Chorus
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1882; France 
6.
Choeurs (3), Op. 151: no 2, Salut au chevalier by Camille Saint-Saëns
Performer:  Mario Patuzzi (Piano)
Conductor:  Diego Fasolis
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Italian Switzerland Radio/TV Chorus
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1917; France 
Language: French 
7.
Les guerriers, Op. 84 by Camille Saint-Saëns
Conductor:  Diego Fasolis
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Italian Switzerland Radio/TV Chorus
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1888; France 
Language: French 
8.
Pastorale by Camille Saint-Saëns
Performer:  Mario Patuzzi (Piano)
Conductor:  Diego Fasolis
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Italian Switzerland Radio/TV Chorus
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1855; France 
Language: French 
9.
Choeurs (2), Op. 71: no 1, Les marins de Kermor by Camille Saint-Saëns
Conductor:  Diego Fasolis
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Italian Switzerland Radio/TV Chorus
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1884; France 
Language: French 
10.
Aux conquérants de l'air, Op. 164 by Camille Saint-Saëns
Performer:  Mario Patuzzi (Piano)
Conductor:  Diego Fasolis
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Italian Switzerland Radio/TV Chorus
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1921; France 
Language: French 
11.
Deux choeurs, Op. 53: no 1, Chanson de grand-père by Camille Saint-Saëns
Conductor:  Diego Fasolis
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Italian Switzerland Radio/TV Chorus
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1878; France 
Language: French 

Customer Reviews

Average Customer Review:  1 Customer Review )
 Gorgeous Requiem - Never Knew it Existed December 23, 2012 By Wil L W. (Richwood, TX) See All My Reviews "I never realized that Saint-Saens had composed a requiem. Well, he did and it is absolutely breathtaking on this Chandos recording. The songs that fill out this CD are also quite intertaining. I highly recommend this CD for its great program and sound." Report Abuse
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