Philip Reed
Choir & Organ
November 2016

To follow their excellent recording of the Fauré Requiem, Stephen Cleobury, the Choir of King’s and the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment have now turned their focus to the Requiem of Duruflé. It is given in the less-recorded 1961 version for organ and small orchestra (strings, trumpets, harp and timpani)—often a popular choice for choral societies—with Patricia Bardon a richly voiced mezzo-soprano soloist in the Pie Jesu. Instead of using a baritone soloist, Cleobury opts for Duruflé’s perfectly viable alternative of using the choir’s male voices en masse. The choir and the King’s organ (played by Tom Etheridge) are beautifully caught in the famously generous chapel acoustics, tender and lyrical one moment, splendid and grand the next. Cleobury’s shaping of the climax of the Sanctus is perfectly judged. Each of the Four Motets on Gregorian melodies (1960) is a perfect miniature to which Cleobury devotes as much care as he does to the Requiem. The Messe ‘Cum jubilo’ is a rarity from 1966. Scored for baritone soloist, male voices, orchestra and organ, it echoes the Requiem in its assimilation of plainsong; it is given here in Duruflé’s version for voices and organ (played here by Richard Gowers). While bass-baritone Ashley Riches sounds a little under strain in the higher-lying passages, the men of the choir produce a consistently warm, well-focused sound. A fine addition to the Duruflé discography and to King’s College’s expanding library of own-label recordings.