Fauré Requiem, Duruflé Requiem, Poulenc Sept Chansons

By Ian Crispin Cresswell (The Canberra Times, 18th September 2000)

Considerable talents on song

St Andrew's Church in Forrest opened its doors to a sizeable crowd on September 2 for the performance of three choral works by French composers Maurice Duruflé, Francis Poulenc and Gabriel Fauré.

Appearing alongside the Australian National University Choral Society were the considerable talents of Maria Danielle-Sette, contralto, Erika Tolano, soprano, and Jeremy Tatchell, baritone, accompanied by Nicole Marane on organ.

Duruflé's Requiem proved to be a mixed bag. At times the balance between organ and choir seemed awkward, making the sometimes unclear choral entrances sound even more cavalier. The rather dense textures, such as in the Libera Me, appeared to present no problem to the choir, though more familiarity would assist the often unclear enunciation. The sheer size of the choir also enabled them to make quite a noise, the Sanctus being a good example of dynamic contrast.

Tatchell's sombre approach to the solo matched the almost Eastern sounding organ accompaniment beautifully, his voice moving around often sustained organ notes and filling the church. Danielle-Sette presented her solo with ease. The splendid largesse of her voice, well suited to the long melodic line, covered a large range and was a joy to listen to.

Fauré's Requiem provided no great surprises. With a work so well known in the conventional choral repertoire, it was the most confident piece on the program. The opening Introït was appropriately heroic with good dynamic contrasts.

The close harmonies of the Agnus Dei proved most effective, as was the rather ominous Libera Me. Tatchell's solo in the Offertorium was fabulous with luxuriant sustained notes in a strong mid-range making the long, sustained notes a pleasure rather than a trial. Tolano's solo in the Pie Jesu was a pleasure. Known for her spectacular upper register and vocal gymnastics, we had the benefit of hearing a warming lower register.

Somewhat puzzling, the French connection aside, was the inclusion of two songs by Poulenc, though there was the mention of some angels. For unaccompanied choir they contain some difficult moments, which were soundly performed.