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Cat. No. CHAN 10357 Price: £10.5 No. of discs: 1
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CHAN 10357 - Durufle: Complete Choral Works
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Available From: 12 September 2005
From 1930 organist of the historic church of Saint-Étienne-du-Mont on the Left Bank in Paris, Maurice Duruflé published only a handful of works, including the four sacred choral works recorded here. Of these, the best known is the Requiem, completed in 1947 and accompanied in its original form by a large orchestra and organ although Duruflé also made versions for reduced orchestra with organ, and for organ alone, with an optional obbligato cello in the Pie Jesu. Unusually, it is based closely on the Gregorian plainchant melodies appropriate to each section of the text, here both quoted in their original form and freely extended in the same vein. Their presentation in flexibly changing metres reflects the influential ideas about chant performance of the monks of Solesmes. The plainchant melodies underlying the Quatre Motets sur des themes grégoriens, four short unaccompanied Latin motets completed in 1960, also dictate the musical language, rhythmically supple as in the Requiem, but harmonically much simpler, creating dissonances not by sharp clashes but by a gentle piling-up of different degrees of the mode. The Messe ‘Cum jubilo’, a setting of the Latin Mass without Credo, was composed in 1966 and premiered in a version with large orchestra and organ, though here too the composer made versions of the accompaniment for reduced orchestra and organ, and for solo organ. The vocal part is for solo baritone or for unison baritones, the work being based on the plainchant Mass Cum jubilo (‘With rejoicing’). The organ part embraces a variety of textures and figuration, reflecting its origins in orchestral writing, and goes beyond the boundaries of tonal and modal harmony to include some striking dissonances and even passages without a clear key centre. Duruflé was an opponent of the approval given by the Second Vatican Council in 1963 to the use of the vernacular. However, in 1978, he did compose Notre Père, an unaccompanied setting of the Lord’s Prayer in French intended for the choir at Saint-Étienne. The setting is short and simple, though not without touches of harmonic sophistication.

The Trinity sound is ‘never louder than lovey’ and ultra-straight, giving it a fragile, floating quality that connects well with much of this music; I can’t think of any other performances of the ‘Four Motets where the balance of purpose is so finely judged.
BBC Music Magazine


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