FAURÉ: Messe de Requiem, Op. 48. Messe des pecheurs de Villerville.
Agnes Mellon, soprano; Peter Kooy, baritone; Jean-Philippe Audoli, violin; Le Chapelle Royale; Les Petits Chanteurs de Saint-Louis; Ensemble Musique Oblique; Philippe Herreweghe, cond.
HARMONIA MUNDI SACD HMC 801292 TT: 56:15 (5 channel)

CHARPENTIER: Te Deum. Missa "Assumpta est Maria." Litanies de la Vierge
Les Arts Florissantes/William Christie, cond.
HARMONIA MUNDI SACD HMC 801298 TT: 74:47 (5 channel)

BRAHMS: Ein deutsches Requiem, Op. 45.
Christiane Oelze, soprano; Gerald Finley, baritone; La Chapelle Royale; Collegium Vocale; Orchestre des Champs Elysées/Philippe Herreweghe, cond.
HARMONIA MUNDI SACD HMC 801608 TT: 66:15 (5 channel)

Performances on all three of these SACDs have been around for some time. The Fauré was recorded in September 1988, Charpentier in 1989 and Brahms in 1996. All have been unanimously praised for their quality of performance. The Fauré Requiem is particularly fine and here we have it coupled with a minor but charming earliler work, a mass "for the fishermen" of the town of Normandy, started in 1881, revised and published in 1907. Many listeners might prefer a more Germanic sound for the Brahms Requiem; the lighter sound of the ensemble heard here is far removed from the weightier sound heard on many other recordings of this music. The Charpentier SACD is a particular delight, containing three major works "by the greatest master of sacred music in seventh-century France," Marc-Antoine Charpentier (1643-1704) (not to be confused with Gustav Charpentier (1860-1956), composer of the opera Louise). The program opens with a brief, brilliant Marche de Timbales by Philidor played by timpanist Marie-Ange Petit which perfectly sets the stage for the dramatic music on the remainder of the disk. The sound of soloists, choruses, orchestra (particularly the shining brass) and organ is impressive indeed.

The sonic picture on all three SACDs is remarkably similar—even though three different venues and producers were involved and the Brahms Requiem was recorded during a live performance. The Fauré was engineered by Raymond Buttin and Joël Soupiron, the Charpentier by Jean-Françoise Pontefract and the Brahms by Jean-Martial Golaz. Sound quality is excellent if you like to hear music in a very resonant acoustic. All of these sound as if they were performed in a large church, which is appropriate for the music. On these five-channel recordings you will hear the performers in front (with soloists nicely balanced), ambient sound coming from the rear. Complete texts/translations are provided.

R.E.B. (March 2004)