DURUFLÉ:  Requiem, Op. 9.  Mass, Op. 11  "Cum jubilo."  Four motets.  Notre Père, Op. 14.
Anne Sofie von Otter, mezzo-soprano/Thomas Hampson, baritone/Marie-Claire Alain, organist/Orfeon Donostiarra/Toulouse Capitol Orch/Michel Plasson, cond.

EMI Classics 56878  (F) (DDD) TT:  74:27 

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Ask choral conductors and critics to name their favorite French sacred choral work and the hands down winner would be Fauré's Requiem (1889).  Coming in a close second, based on the number of recent performances and recordings, would be Maurice Duruflé's 1947 Requiem.  It's no coincidence that the two share much in common.  Both omit the usual "Dies irae" yet include two very French movements, the sublime "Pie Jesu" and ethereal (and concluding) "In paradiaum."  Musically, although both achieve a strong sense of nobility through far-reaching dynamics, ranging from the contemplative to the joyous, Duruflé's music is more modal, unbounded, and often based on Gregorian chant.

Since the Duruflé performances on this EMI CD by soloists, the Orfeon Donostiarra and Toulouse Capital Orchestra under Michel Plasson are so uniformly fine, it is difficult  to mention the many high points.  However, a few do stand out such as the almost whispered "Introit" (aided by the spacious acoustics of Toulouse's Notre Dame La Daurade Church, Anne Sofie von Otter's suppliant "Pie Jesu" and Thomas Hampson's vibrant "Hostias."  Arguably the best pairing of the Faure and Duruflé  Requiems remains the Teldec CD (90879) featuring soprano Barbara Bonney, mezzo-soprano Jennifer Larmore and Hampson.  However, this EMI CD boasts the rarely-performed Mass "Cum jubilo" (1964) for baritone, male chorus and orchestra along with the oft-performed four motets on Gregorian themes.  Highly recommended.

K.S.