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A sublimely beautiful disc of sublimely beautiful music
on 21 December 2012
This disc, first issued in 1984, focusses on a recording of the second of three versions Faure made of his Requiem. The first did not include two of the movements and was written for a smaller orchestra without violins, horns or trumpets. The second version from 1893 and recorded here incorporated these extra instruments in a limited but telling way and also included the Offertoire and Libera Me missing from the first version. The third, and most often performed version was for full orchestra and larger choir.
The performance here uses the small orchestra as required by Faure and this is matched by a small choir of very great purity of tone. The horns have a small but vital role in the climax to the Libera me. This is far more effective than in many more opulent versions simply because of the contrast created between so little and then relatively so much. The important treble solo in the Pie Jesu is taken by solo soprano Caroline Ashton who sings with such a clarity that it is very hard to imagine that she is not a treble of great tonal quality and surety. The baritone soloist, Stephen Varcoe, sings his solo well.
The Cantique de Jean Racine is an early work of Faure written when he was just 20 winning him first prize in a competition. It has justifiably remained popular ever since. The remaining works on the disc are of similar quality but it will be for the Requiem that this disc is chosen.
I would suggest that, like John Rutter believes, this is the finest of the three settings created by Faure. As such it has strong claims on collectors and this is one of the finest performances of that setting made. The recording portrays its ethereal quality perfectly. A sublime disc in every way.