Fauré: Requiem (1893 version) (CD)

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Ensemble Aedes, Les Siècles, Mathieu Romano, Mathieu Dubroca, Sébastien Richaud, Roxane Chalard

Fauré’s Requiem (‘funeral lullaby’) written for enjoyment, as the composer put it, has a unique place in history. Its soft, simple and modest poetry conveys moments of gentle contemplation and moving expressiveness which are entrusted to both the choir and the two soloists.

With his Ensemble Aedes and the orchestra Les Siècles, Mathieu Romano is committed to render a Requiem faithful to its first performance. We hear thus the score in its original 1893 orchestration, where the organ plays a great role and where Latin is pronounced in the French way as it used to be. The clearest articulation of the Ensemble Aedes then perfectly fits Éluard’s Figure humaine set to music by Francis Poulenc. We have never heard these sublime poems sung with such intelligibility before!

Finally, the three Songs by Debussy elegantly close the album. Here again, the quality and clarity of the voices are stunning. Artistic director and founder of Ensemble Aedes Mathieu Romano has established himself as a magician of voices in a cappella scores and voices ideally melt with the strings of Les Siècles under his baton.

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Gabriel Fauré (1845-1924) 
Requiem , op. 48 (version of 1893 on period instruments) 
1. Introit - Kyrie 
2. Offertory 
3. Sanctus 
4. Pie Jesu 
5. Agnus Dei 
6. Libera me 
7. In paradisum

Francis Poulenc (1899-1963) 
Human figure . Cantata for double choir mixed a cappella 
8. Of all the world's spring 
9. By singing the maids rush 
10. As low as silence 
11. You my patient 
12. Laughing of the sky and the planets 
13. The day m ' astonishes and the night scares me 
14. The threat under the red sky 
15. Freedom

Claude Debussy (1862-1918) 
Three Songs of Charles of Orleans
16. God! how good it looks! (1898, first version) 
17. When I got the tabourin (1908) 
18. Yver, you are only a villain (1898, first version)

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In a market crammed with recordings of the Fauré Requiem, it is very pleasing to be able to point to one that distinguishes itself. Pairing the Requiem with Poulenc’s secular, a cappella cantata Figure Humaine, and Debussy’s diminutive Trois Chansons de Charles d’Orléans, makes the point that this is not specifically a sacred work, but a very personal meditation on mortality. Ensemble Aedes have attempted to capture the sound of the Requiem as first performed, the earlier, more organ-dominated orchestration is used, and the Latin is French-inflected. Their approach brings out the very best in this beloved work, and the performance is eloquent and accomplished. The Poulenc cantata Figure Humaine is hardly less substantial, setting texts by Paul Éluard written during WWII, expressing the “suffering of the people of France” and is considered by some to be Poulenc’s greatest achievement. Closing this otherwise rather movingly introspective recital with Debussy’s lovely choral songs is a stroke of brilliance, providing a burst of vivacious optimism to take away with us.

- Chris Dench, The Classical Music Collector