Before your heart leaps at the thought of both these masterpieces as presented on SACD, read the heading carefully. These are organ and choir versions, of which the Durufle was in existence, but not the Faure, here arranged for such by organist Wager. There have been many performing versions of both these works, and arguments still go on today about which versions best approximate the ideals of the composers. Who cares—what is important is how we react to them in the here and now as living works of art, and there is no doubt that they affect us greatly.
So I approached this recording with every hope and expectation that neither piece would disappoint with the paired-down forces consolidated into only one instrument, albeit the so-called King of them all. In general I was not disappointed, though for varying reasons. The Durufle works well in this guise, and that is probably why it has been heard like this more often than the Faure. His upfront and easily discernable use of Gregorian chant is something that any organ is going to blend well with, and the cool draft of a Romanesque monastery can be felt throughout this performance. The Faure is more problematic in that its chant-like qualities are more subtle, and every time one of the few “big” moments appeared I found myself longing for the orchestral forces, which also add a degree of Gallic color to the work that the organ simply cannot supply, or at least not as well.
The Swedish Radio Choir is an ensemble whose reputation walks miles in front of it, and I have yet to hear them in a bad performance. The same holds true here, and they deliver a wonderful performance of both works, sounding for all the world as if they lived in France instead of Sweden. BIS does a great job with the Super Audio also; there is a fine spaciousness and beautifully captured ambiance floating overhead among the speakers in the center of my listening room. If this was an orchestral version I think it would deserve raves; as it is, it will interest some people but cannot be recommended as a first choice by any means. One must stick with the tried and true for that. As a supplement, it fits the bill quite nicely.
— Steven Ritter