Les Petits Chanteurs de St. Louis
Ensemble Musique Oblique,
Conducted by Philippe Herreweghe
Gabriel Faure's Requiem has a couple of different versions.1988 version only consists of five movements. 1893 version has all the seven movements; it's written for soloists, lower strings (there is only a violin part in 'In Paradisum' and a solo violin part in Sanctus), choir, organ, timpani, harp, horns and trumpets. The 1900 version is orchestrated for the full orchestra, but mostly by Faure's students. Faure was never keen on writing a version for full orchestra, since the 1893 version had everything that Faure intended for this piece. In fact, most of the woodwind parts in 1900 version derive directly from organ parts.
The 1893 version is the most complete overall. It has all the movements Faure composed, and is orchestrated only in the way Faure intended to. My opinion is that a piece loses its sincerity when it is orchestrated for a different medium. Take Rossini's Petite Messe Solennelle for instance. Even though it's skilfully orchestrated for full orchestra by the composer, the version for the small ensemble of it stands always closer to me.
About this recording, I find it so great that it is hard to believe. The choir performs wonderfully, every group sounds very clear and moving. Listen to the part where the choir sings the theme of the baritone in the end of 'Libera me'. Without any exaggeration they bring a moving freshness to the piece. In every part of Requiem the choir is just great, they never destroy the sacred feeling of this piece. Listen to the tenors in the beginning of 'Agnus Dei' for instance. And the soprano solo in 'Pie Jesu'? Such a gentle interpretation, such peaceful and magical singing. To be compared with the recording of C.M. Giulini, in Giulini's recording K. Battle completely ruins the meaning of 'Pie Jesu' by using too much vibrato, thus the peacefulness, the purity of 'Pie Jesus' is completely destroyed. The other soloist Peter Kooy (baritone) performs so wonderfully in 'Libera me' that you get a weird tension, take the harmonic progression starting with 'Quando coeli movendi sunt' for instance.There is no roughness in his singing; every phrase flows naturally.
The orchestra is wonderfull too. Horn parts are very nice. Even the solo violin in 'In Paradisum' is nice in spite of a few intonations. Mr. Herreweghe accomplished a great success in this performance. Everything is well thought of. Requiem is a great peace with contrasting ideas, great orchestration. Listen for instance to the part beginning with 'Te decet hymnus' in 'Introit et Kyrie', after tenors sing "... et lux perpetua' and with the entrance of horns & trumpets there is a small tension. Right after this the female voices enter; these contrasting ideas are great. Herreweghe senses this and never lets any phrase to be exaggerated; this in fact is how this piece is intended to be, and this recording comes very close.