FAURE: Requiem, Op. 48; DEBUSSY: Images pour Orchestre – Victoria de los Angeles, soprano/Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, baritone/ Choeurs Elisabeth Brasseur/ Orchestre de la Societe des Concerts du Conservatoire/Andre Cluytens
EMI Classics 9 65933 2, 74:50 ****:
This tribute to French orchestral master Andre Cluytens (1905-1967) combines two Great Recordings of the Century into one – the Debussy Images (11-14 November 1963) and the star-studded Faure Requiem (14-26 May 1962). At the time of Cluytens’ death, he had gleaned much praise for his work with the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, having been the first Gallic artist to inscribe a Beethoven cycle with Karajan’s ensemble. Collaborations at Bayreuth testified to Cluytens’ mastery of a German repertory that well complemented his hegemony in French music. The Images instantiate Debussy’s color diversity, the many Spanish elements integrated into French forms, especially the rondeau. The degree of shimmering orchestral definition quite startles us, the interior lines chiseled in motley. Woodwind interplay in the outer movements–Gigues and Rondes de printemps--quite often anticipate figures in Stravinsky’s The Rites of Spring. The aerial canopy Cluytens elicits from his Paris Conservatory Orchestra makes a musical equivalent for Kubla Khan’s Pleasure Dome.
“As gentle as I am,” quoth Gabriel Faure of his Requiem, and the soft tissue of this solemn hymn to life as well as death, aided and abetted masterfully by vocalists De los Angeles and Fischer-Dieskau, fulfills his purpose. So different in color quality than Debussy, Faure’s music casts a burnished glow entirely unique; and the sumptuous, often labyrinthine bass lines underneath the chorus could make symphonies of their own. Once the music opens out in the Sanctus, there is no turning back. A visceral and absolutely requisite listening experience from the EMI archives.