Harry Christophers / The Sixteen

Fauré: Requiem

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Both in the program and in the forces involved, this disc presents unexpected combinations. The virtuoso British choir the Sixteen and conductor Harry Christophers have specialized in clean, accessible recordings of works from the Renaissance and Baroque eras. And the pairing of Mozart's Vesperae Solennes de Confessore, K. 339, with the Fauré Requiem is unusual to say the least. This recording, made live at London's Barbican Centre, doesn't completely succeed in knitting things together. Indeed, the cover bills only the Fauré. The choir seems a bit ill at ease in the Mozart, which despite its designation as "solemn" is a sunny, major-key work that seems to challenge the singers' smooth reserve. (They are lovely, however, in the opening Ave Verum Corpus, K. 618.) The good news is that the Fauré is gorgeous indeed. Soprano Elin Manahan Thomas, who provides the high point of the Mozart Vespers with her sumptuous Laudate Dominum, and in Fauré's Pie Jesu, is extraordinarily affecting. The real credit belongs to the choir, though. The sweet, reflective tone of the Fauré, which was perhaps a Gallic counterpoint to the confidence of the Brahms German Requiem and which someone once called a lullaby of death, calls forth their very best ensemble work, and the sheer tunefulness of the music has rarely been better embodied. The live recording is at a very high standard, with close details of the singers' encounter with the texts fully audible. Not necessarily recommended as a Sixteen disc, but fully recommended for those in search of a recording of Fauré's Requiem.

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