Cantique de Jean Racine, Op.11
La Naissance de Vénus, Op.29
Libby Crabtree (soprano)
Mary Plazas (soprano)
Pamela Helen Stephen (mezzo-soprano)
Timothy Robinson (tenor)
James Rutherford (bass)
City of Birmingham Symphony Chorus
Yan Pascal Tortelier
Recorded 15 & 16 February 2003 in Studio 7, New Broadcasting House, Manchester
Reviewed by: Colin Anderson
Reviewed: September 2003
CD No: CHANDOS CHAN 10113
The main interest here is La Naissance de Vénus, which Fauré (1845-1924) completed in 1895 (and conducted at the Leeds Festival in 1898), music that he seems to have had much affection for. On the basis of this record, its neglect is difficult to understand. The opening pastoral measures capture the imagination, and although Paul Collin’s text is thought rather uninspired (it is printed in the booklet), Fauré’s mellifluous strains are lyrically enervated, a little restricted and unvaried maybe, but there’s some lovely expression, harmonies and scoring. Timothy Robinson is a little nasal-sounding but Mary Plazas delights.
Flowing and reserved but with just enough intensity, both the Cantique and Pavane are admirably done, expressive and glowing. The Requiem, in its full-orchestra and maybe not wholly authentic version, begins here with dramatic attack. Yan Pascal Tortelier makes this a religious experience by dint of his voluble way with the music, searching out a depth of response. The organ (sometimes with a lovely harmonium approximation) is given a voice of its own and the excellent choral singing seems to come, appropriately, from the cloister.
James Rutherford has a flexible and burgeoning bass voice; he is not hamstrung by too much internal resonance. Libby Crabtree is affectingly straightforward in the Pie Jesu, although her making a break before the last syllable of ’domine’ is disconcerting; equally she could have been even more distantly (and higher) placed, for something from afar and aloft. Tortelier gives full measure to the glorious opening of the Agnus Dei (and on its reprise at the movement’s close) and makes articulate the organ’s dancing figure that dominates In Paradisum. Overall, an involving and moving performance, atmospherically recorded.