Andrew Palmer, Group Editor

Classical Music: Martin Messe Pour Double Chœur Duruflé Requiem

Frank Martin Messe Pour double chœur Maruice Duruflé Requiem

La Maîtrise de Toulouse
Conservatoire de Toulouse

Juliette Mey Mezzo-Soprano Alain Buet Baritone
Jérôme Cuvillier Violincello William Fielding Organ

Director Mark Opstad

As a recording company dedicated to church and organ music, Regent has established itself as leader in the field. There are many reasons for this; as I have mentioned in previous reviews Regent is a trailblazer for recording new music coupled with excellence in the quality of the recorded sound.

Regent’s engineers have a wonderful knack of perfectly placing microphones to capture ambience. It is never just a performance, the liturgical sense is always present. I particularly enjoy the way organ accompaniments are never compromised; the balance is carefully thought through whether it be loud reeds and 32ft pedal stops at full blast or capturing the idiomatic quieter sounds. The result? The speaker becomes the cathedral, church or town hall.

This new disc is no exception and excellently proves my point; an a capella work for double choir and a similar work with organ accompaniment.

Swiss composer, Frank Martin’s Messe pour double chœur is often described as extraordinary and is recognised as one of the major Latin choral Mass settings of the twentieth century. Incredibly it remained unperformed for nearly forty years after its composition.

From the opening alto entry the music engulfs the dramatic and exciting telling of the Mass. All the entries are superbly observed as are the sforzandos and diminuendos. Where Martin asks for more movement the La Maîtrise de Toulouse, which is undoubtedly at its zenith with a well-balanced, lovely tone, deliver. The tenors and basses held notes at the end are resonant.

Carefully watching the conductor at the start of the Gloria, the tenors lead the entries of different parts on the word 'Gloria'; all are flawlessly executed as is the terrific Dominus deo, the quality of the timbre here is magnificent. Regent has captured the liturgical spirit.

The work was composed in 1922 but in 1926 Martin added a deeply moving Agnus Dei in which the choirs are used essentially as separate entities. The section where choir two ATB parts sing in thirds is executed well. The controlled and resonant singing of the Agnus Dei implores the Lamb of God to have mercy on us and it is conveyed through beautifully expressed singing that brings the Mass to a peaceful close.

What makes this recording even more remarkable is that few choirs are made up of such young musicians. Martin’s Mass, is hugely challenging and around a third of the members of the choir had never rehearsed without masks and distancing between each singer until the month before the recording was made.

The second piece is Duruflé’s Requiem, another work that can be hard to bring off; the accompaniment is not helpful in guiding the singers to pitch notes. As a French choir, La Maitrise de Toulouse interpret the music expressively with clear vocal lines and William Fielding’s astute organ accompaniments have been given careful consideration. The beautiful organ registration for Lux aeterna blends movingly with the choir. Again the sonorities are exquisite and the pianissimo sections are softly expressed. Mezzo-soprano Juliette Mey’s Pie Jesu is delightful and touching, Jérôme Cuvillier’s cello obligato adds warmth and, along with French baritone Alain Buet, all shape their phrases well.

It is astounding that a young choir can perform with so much emotional, depth and energy, a testament to Mark Opstad’s exceptional choir training techniques.

One of the finest releases so far this year.

La Maîtrise de Toulouse
Credit N.Lourdaux
La Maîtrise de Toulouse Credit N.Lourdaux