Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Gabriel Fauré; Lili Boulanger - Requiem & Sacred Works (Nadia Boulanger)


Composer: Gabriel Fauré; Lili Boulanger
  • (01) Boulanger - Psaume 24: La terre appartient à l’Éternel, for tenor, mixed chorus, organ & orchestra
  • (02) Boulanger - Pie Jesu, for voice, organ, string quartet & harp
  • (03) Boulanger - Psaume 130: Du fond de l'abîme, for mezzo-soprano, tenor, mixed chorus & orchestra
  • (04-10) Faure - Requiem, Op. 48

Ian Partridge, tenor (1, 3)
Bernadette Greevy, mezzo-soprano (2, 3)
John Carol Case, baritone (4-10)
Janet Price, soprano (4-10)
BBC Symphony Chorus & Orchestra
Nadia Boulanger, conductor

Date: 1968
Label: BBC Legends



Though not free from flaws, these performances are of exceptional authority because of the conductor’s special relationship to both composers.

The appearance within less than six months of three recordings of the same works is already something of note: still more when they are by a composer who until 1992 was all but unknown to the record catalogues. But these performances of Lili Boulanger’s masterly setting of Psalm 130 (De profundis) , together with two shorter pieces of hers, demand special consideration in that they were conducted by her elder sister Nadia, who was extremely close to, and had a unique understanding of, her precociously gifted but tragically short-lived sibling. The vividness of the recording equals that in Tortelier’s performance for Chandos or that in Stringer’s for Timpani lauded in September’s ‘Soundings’, and the impact of the impassioned Psalm 24, heightened here by ferociously trenchant organ and brass, is overwhelming; but it must be conceded that in this public performance the chorus’s intonation is a shade less than impeccable, and Psalm 130 contains small imperfections (notably in the strings). And surely the BBC could have bestirred itself sufficiently to provide texts of these works in the booklet?

There are more than 40 recordings of the Faure Requiem currently available, but once again this merits special attention since Nadia Boulanger was a pupil and ardent champion of Faure. It is, however, rather strange that she preferred the later fully-scored version of the work (the sternness of whose opening contrasts with the overall consolatory atmosphere) to the composer’s intimate original, intended for liturgical use. This is a fervent, heartfelt reading, lent distinction by fine singing by John Carol Case, and there is an emotional Pie Jesu from Janet Price (making an interesting comparison with Lili Boulanger’s setting of the same words, with Bernadette Greevy as soloist) ; but those with an acute ear for intonation will be a little troubled by the chorus’s tendency to sing on the underside of notes.

-- Lionel Salter, Gramophone

More reviews:


Gabriel Fauré (12 May 1845 – 4 November 1924) was a French composer, organist, pianist and teacher. He was one of the foremost French composers of his generation, and his musical style influenced many 20th-century composers. Among his best-known works are his Pavane, Requiem, nocturnes for piano and the songs "Après un rêve" and "Clair de lune". Fauré composed many of his most highly regarded works in his later years, in a more harmonically and melodically complex style. His music has been described as linking the end of Romanticism with 20th century modernism.


Lili Boulanger (21 August 1893 – 15 March 1918) was a French composer, the younger sister of the noted composer and composition teacher Nadia Boulanger. She was a child prodigy and studied with Gabriel Fauré and Louis Vierne among others. In 1913, at the age of 19, she became the first woman composer to win the Prix de Rome composition prize for her 'Faust et Hélène'. Her work was noted for its colorful harmony and instrumentation and skillful text setting. Her life was troubled by chronic illness, cut short at the early age of 24.


Nadia Boulanger (16 September 1887 – 22 October 1979) was a French composer, conductor, and teacher. She is notable for having taught many of the leading composers and musicians of the 20th century. She also performed occasionally as a pianist and organist. Among her students were those who became leading composers, soloists, arrangers and conductors, including Aaron Copland, Roy Harris, Quincy Jones, John Eliot Gardiner, Elliott Carter, Dinu Lipatti, Igor Markevitch, Virgil Thomson, David Diamond, İdil Biret, Daniel Barenboim, Philip Glass and Astor Piazzolla.


Nadia & Lili Boulanger, 1913


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