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The second Virgin Classics CD from the Orchestre de Paris under its new Music Director, Paavo Järvi, is entirely devoted to Fauré, with his Requiem as the centrepiece. The soloists are baritone Matthias Goerne and, singing the Pie Jesu usually assigned to a soprano, countertenor Philippe Jaroussky.
Paavo Järvi assumed his role as Music Director of the Orchestre de Paris at the beginning of the 2010-11 season and this, his second Virgin Classics recording with the orchestra, is based on concerts that took place in Paris in early 2011. Like its predecessor, a programme of Bizet released in Autumn 2010 (admired by the UK’s Observer for the “perfect athleticism and agility … provided in abundance by the Orchestre de Paris under its new conductor, Paavo Järvi), it is entirely devoted to music by one French composer -- here Gabriel Fauré. His serene, consoling Requiem is the main work on the CD, which also includes three other much-loved pieces and one little-known item.
“For a conductor from outside France, working on French repertoire with a French orchestra is an exciting prospect, and l’Orchestre de Paris is consummate in this music,” comments Järvi. “I discovered French composers pretty early on, as I was getting to know the Romantic repertoire, with Fauré, Bizet and Dukas. Debussy and Ravel came later. They were a revelation for me.” (Ravel, of course, was a pupil of Fauré at Paris Conservatoire, where the older composer taught for many years.)
The Requiem features two vocal soloists, usually a soprano and a baritone. Here, however, a countertenor – exclusive Virgin Classics artist Philippe Jaroussky – brings his ethereal timbre and sensitive phrasing to the poised Pie Jesu. His baritone colleague is the warm-toned German Matthias Goerne, acknowledged as on of today’s finest vocal recitalists. The Chœur de l’Orchestre de Paris also perform in three other works on the CD, the exquisite Pavane, with its flowing melody and mock-Rococo verses, and two early works to religious texts, the touching Cantique de Jean Racine and Super Flumina Babylonis (By the Rivers of Babylon).
Completing the programme is a purely instrumental work, the reflective, but impassioned Elégie for cello and orchestra, in which the soloist is the Orchestre de Paris’ Principal Cellist, Eric Picard.
Requiem Op. 48: I. Introït et Kyrie
Requiem Op. 48: II. Offertoire
Requiem Op. 48: III. Sanctus
Requiem Op. 48: IV. Pie Jesu
Requiem Op. 48: V. Agnus Dei
Requiem Op. 48: VI. Libera me
Requiem Op. 48: VII. In Paradisum
Cantique de Jean Racine Op. 11
Elégie for cello and orchestra in C minor Op. 24
Pavane for orchestra and mixed choir, Op. 50
Super flumina Babylonis, for mixed choir and orchestra
9th September 2011
“Jaroussky, breathtakingly angelic in what Saint-Saëns considered the only "Pie Jesu" worth performing. But it's Järvi's uncanny knack to somehow derive spiritual uplift from the gloomiest of subjects that most impresses here, a talent tailored to fit such needs.”
“On this showing, Jaroussky might more accurately be described as a countermezzo, since his fine high Fs (top line of the treble stave) are delivered with no sense of strain. Most of the time, he fits the historical bill in sounding more like a boy than a mezzo...Eric Picard plays the Elegie stylishly, supported by some lovely woodwind solos.”
8th October 2011
“Järvi proves a surprisingly effective interpreter of the Requiem. His French orchestra and chorus lend the ‘Sanctus’ and ‘In Paradisum’ an appropriate air of mystic transcendence, and Matthias Goerne dignifies the ‘Libera me’. A countertenor may not be everyone’s choice for the ‘Pie Jesu’, but you can’t fault Philippe Jaroussky for purity.”
13th October 2011
“However admirable Paavo Järvi's performance of Fauré's Requiem may be, it's the motet Super Flumina Babylonis that provides the main focus on this disc... The choral singing is magnificent throughout...It's a nicely balanced recording, allowing us to appreciate the immense subtlety of Fauré's orchestration. The performance of the Cantique de Jean Racine is one of the most beautiful I know.”
26th October 2011
“Järvi's live recording packs a punch, the X-factor within its beautifully warm, full sound being a core strength that colours both timbre and interpretation and underpins even the light-textured, soprano-led In Paradisum. The vocal tones of both soloists slot into this sound world perfectly, with the casting of countertenor Philippe Jaroussky in the soprano role feeling surprisingly natural from the outset.”
“the real shock is just how well suited Jaroussky's countertenor turns out to be for the Pie Jesu. There is astonishing purity even in the very highest register and a level of restrained drama that transforms this into something of quite extraordinary impact...The real interest in this new disc is a rare outing for Faure's very first choral piece, Super flumina Babylonis...a remarkably serious and quite operatic utterance from an 18-year-old student”
“front-rank Faure. Emotional and cerebral intelligence are harnessed by Paavo Jarvi, a musician clearly dedicated to Faure's cause. Even the composer's familiar Pavane, done here with optional chorus and stripped of false sentiment, sounds fresh and new in its classical elegance.”
The Arts Desk
5th November 2011
“The surprise in Paavo Järvi’s live recording of the full orchestral version is countertenor Philippe Jaroussky’s solo in the Pie Jesu, a gamble which comes off beautifully; Jaroussky’s otherworldly vocal perfect for this work...Järvi’s large choir make a pleasingly rich sound and the overall effect is more sincere and less cloying than it can be.”
“[The] shorter pieces come off rather better than the Requiem, in which Järvi does not always sound very interested. This work does contain some very good things, however, particularly from the soloists, and certainly never falls below an acceptable level...Järvi injects a welcome touch of drama into the mid-section.”
Click on any of the works listed above for alternative recordings.