Notes and Editorial Reviews
A concert of Fauré’s elegiac music, full of melody and choral peaks. It can be enjoyed to the full in this visual performance.
Born in Pamiers, France, in May 1845, Gabriel Fauré was encouraged by his family in his early musical ambitions. He shared this with Paavo Järvi the idiomatic conductor of these performances. Fauré trained at the École Niedermeyer, Paris, coming under the influence of Camille Saint-Saens. After completing his studies he became organist at St. Saveur in Rennes and there found time for composition. In 1871 he returned to Paris as assistant at St. Sulpice and later moved to the larger and more prestigious Madeleine. Composing and teaching supplemented his income and in 1882 he was employed as a teacher of composition at the Conservatoire where his pupils were to include Ravel, Enescu and Nadia Boulanger. He was appointed Director in 1905 and remained in that position until 1920, his administrative duties severely restricting his compositional creativity.
Undoubtedly a Romantic and with an enthusiasm for Wagner and Liszt, Saint-Saens was Fauré’s prime influence. He attempted some large-scale compositions. He became more self-critical and later restricted himself to smaller forms in which he excelled particularly when allied to his gift for melody. The opening Pavane (CH.2) was originally for orchestra with the choral parts added later. Like the Elégie (CH.3) it was very much a product of his early compositional period. Its gentle melody moves between lower strings to violins with wind following the haunting theme. The conclusion has full orchestra with the chorus soaring and then concluding sotto voce. It perfectly illustrates the composer’s idiom and style. In this performance of the Elegie the cellist Eric Picard plays the delicate phrases to near perfection.
The seemingly unknown piece here, Super flumina Babylonis, (CH.4)is an early work. In the bonus interview conductor Paavo Järvi claims it as a world premier recording. I am not wholly sure if he means on DVD or more generally. It is certainly a rarity whose structure foretells much of the direction the composer’s music for choir and orchestra would take. Järvi certainly gives the music full value with members of the Choir of the Orchestre de Paris filling in some solo lines.
The main focus of the concert is the Requiem (CHs.9-16). Detesting Berlioz’s super grandiose Grande Messe des Morts, Fauré’s creation is elegiac in the extreme. He began the work in 1877 and the first performance was as a liturgical piece in 1883 at the Madeleine. At that stage there were only five movements. The two involving the baritone soloist, the Offertoire (CH.7) and Libera me, (CH.11) were added later. The orchestrated version dates from 1900.
In this performance of the Requiem the chorus really come into their own under Järvi. Good as they have been earlier, here they excel. Baritone Matthias Goerne sings with beautiful even tone and phrases with a delicacy that complements the music to perfection. The Pie Jesu (CH.9) is sung with excellent purity of tone by the soprano Chen Reiss. She nearly obliterates from my mind’s ear the treble voice of Jonathan Bond in that memorable recording by the Academy of St Martins under George Guest (Decca).
-- Robert J Farr, MusicWeb International