Album Review

Posted: Sunday 9th August 2009
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Durufle: Requiem – Gramophone

Disappointment that this recording uses the version of the Requiem with organ-only accompaniment (with the addition in the “pie jesu” of Robert Cohen’s sumptuously lyrical cello) quickly turned to something approaching ecstasy when, within two bars, it became manifestly obvious that Jeremy Filsell was giving us something very distinguished indeed. He has clearly studied Durufle’s orchestral versions and pulls out whatever stops necessary on the Tonbridge School organ to recreate the effect the composer was seeking. On the strength of such inspired organ accompaniment, this disc immediately places itself head and shoulders above any other recording of this version and makes a compelling case for the validity of it as a concert rather than a purely liturgical performing version.

Easy as it is to be diverted by the sheer genius of Filsell’s organ accompaniment, it would be wrong to understate the extraordinarily insightful direction of Jeremy Backhouse who reveals this lovely score in all its grace and open-hearted sincerity. The matchless quality of the Vasari Singers is more vividly displayed in fervent and beautifully shaped accounts of the Quatre Motets while, following a monumentally impressive account of Jean-Jacques Grünenwald’s Tu es Petrus, we have his extended setting of the Latin psalm, De Profundis. Grünenwald’s setting has much of the vivid colouring and sequence of distinct images which characterises his film music and, as a result, lacks a certain overall cohesion. Musically it may be more a succession of moments than a structured entity, but the sum of those moments, each delivered with consummate attention to detail by an extraordinarily able choir and an astonishingly perceptive organist, is a performance not just of Technicolor magic but some emotional depth too.

Marc Rochester