Victoria de los Angeles, soprano; Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, baritone; Elisabeth Brasseur Choeurs; Henriette Puig-Roget, organ; Paris Conservatory Orchestra/André Cluytens, cond.
EMI CLASSICS 66946 (M) (ADD) TT: 39:55
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"Great Recordings of the Century," printed across this reissue, is a major misnomer as far as this reissue of EMI's 1962 recording of Fauré's Requiem is concerned. Granted, two of this century's most celebrated singers are the featured soloists, soprano Victoria de los Angeles, and baritone Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau. Their achievements in both the concert hall and opera house are well documented on disc. Also, conducting the French orchestra is another major name, André Cluytens.
The problem is that this Requiem, which IS one of the masterpieces of the century, is primarily for chorus with incidental solos. Unfortunately, this performance is weakened by the Choeurs Elisabeth Brasseur. While the traditional Latin text and Fauré's magnificent score require a wide dynamic range from the chorus, the Brasseur bunch responds with unblended, anemic sounds reminiscent of a catch-all community chorus. The results: pure pablum instead of grit and grace.
Even soprano de los Angeles, although singing beautifully, lacks the mystery and involvement to transform the oft-performed "Pie Jesu" into the memorable moment it can be. Only Fischer-Dieskau's moving "Hostias et preces, tibi, Domine" achieves the right balance of intensity and tonal nuance. If only his level of performance had been replicated throughout! Totally aside from the inadequacies of the performance, it should be pointed out that less than 40 minutes playing time is meager even for a mid-priced CD.
K.S. (Sept. 1999)