For this ABC Classics recording, the Australian choral group Cantillation and the Sinfonia Australis, under the direction of Antony Walker, perform the 1893 chamber orchestra version of Gabriel Fauré's masterful Requiem, Op. 48, along with two less significant but beautiful choral works, the Cantique de Jean Racine, Op. 11, and La Naissance de Vénus, Op. 29. With soprano Sara Macliver and baritone Teddy Tahu Rhodes as soloists, the ensemble delivers a transparent and fluid reading of the Requiem that radiates light and warmth, and the darker colors and weightiness that are sometimes emphasized in the full symphonic version are alleviated by the sparer textures and smaller forces employed here. There are some moments in this performance that deserve favorable mention, such as the ravishing counterpoint that closes the Offertorium, Macliver's pure intonation in the Pie Jesu, the dramatic entrance of the brass and timpani in the Libera me, and the glowing blend of voices, organ, and strings in the soothing In Paradisum, bringing the music to an ecstatic highpoint. The 1865 version of the pious Canticle is for four-part choir and organ, and the rather homogenous choral parts over an arpeggiated accompaniment create a simple, hymn-like feeling that Cantillation and organist David Drury directly communicate. La Naissance de Vénus, on the other hand, is quite lush and rapturous in the 1895 orchestral version, and Macliver and Rhodes are joined by mezzo-soprano Jenny Duck-Chong as the Néréide, and tenor Paul McMahon in an atmospheric performance that many will enjoy. The sound is quite pleasant, with plenty of resonance to give the voices a lustrous tone, yet with enough clarity to distinguish all the instrumental parts.
AllMusic Review by Blair Sanderson
|Requiem, for 2 solo voices, chorus, organ & orchestra, Op. 48|
|La naissance de Venus, for vocal soloists, chorus & orchestra or piano ("mythological scene"), Op. 29|