Francesco Durante – Requiem

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In an exciting new collaboration, Christ Church Cathedral Choir joins forces with soloists from The Sixteen and Oxford Baroque on this new recording of Francesco Durante’s Requiem Mass in C minor.

Despite its enduring popularity in the 18th century this beautiful and majestic work was never published but survives through over 50 manuscript copies scattered across Europe. It is a remarkable work which can justly be described as one of the most important orchestral Requiem settings of the 18th century. This is the premiere recording of Stephen Darlington’s new edition of the work which shows Durante to be a composer of considerable skill and invention, who combined his mastery of counterpoint with an elegance of melody, a richness of harmony and an imaginative instinct for structure.

This album also features Durante’s exquisite Organ Concerto in B flat major – a rare example of an Italian keyboard concerto of the period – performed here by celebrated organist, Clive Driskill-Smith.

Christ Church Cathedral Choir
Soloists from The Sixteen
Oxford Baroque
Clive Driskell-Smith – Organ
Stephen Darlington – Conductor

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Francesco Durante (1684-1755) made a profound mark on musical culture in early-18th-century Naples. His pupils at the city’s prestigious conservatories included Pergolesi, Traetta, Piccinni and Paisiello. A renowned composer of sacred music, Durante wrote at least three Requiems; an elaborate setting in C minor dated 1746 was probably written for Rome’s S Giacomo degli Spagnoli (in the Piazza Navona) to commemorate the recently deceased Philip V of Spain. More than 50 manuscript copies are dotted around the world, some of them written out as late as 1871, but the work has never been published. It has been edited for this recording by Stephen Darlington, who praises the way Durante’s music combines ‘mastery of counterpoint with an elegance of melody, a richness of harmony and a structural instinct’.

Sometimes singing in five parts and elsewhere in eight, Christ Church Cathedral Choir are on superb form in this skilfully woven music. The assured boy choristers are balanced elegantly with the unforced ease of the adult lay clerks. Durante’s string accompaniments are astutely varied and played by Oxford Baroque with perfect sincerity and stylistic finesse; an obvious dramatic trick is reeling downward spirals that insinuate hints of fire and brimstone in ‘Dies irae’ and ‘Quid sum miser’. The only departure from economical orchestral scoring is a subtle pair of natural horns used to splendid effect in ‘Tuba mirum’, an attractive soprano aria sung limpidly by Alexandra Kidgell. The plaintive quintet of soloists (drawn from The Sixteen), anguished choral supplications and Oxford Baroque’s players are articulately expressive in the vivid contrasts during ‘Ingemisco tamquam reus’. The suspension-laden passages for solo voices in ‘Lacrimosa’, unfurling choral lines in ‘Benedictus’ and imaginative harmonic twists in ‘Libera me’ all reveal hints of why the 18th-century music historian Charles Burney acclaimed Durante as the greatest harmonist of his time.

David Vickers, Gramophone, January 2017
(Click here to see the online version of this review.)

…top of the list now…

Andrew McGregor, Record Review (at 1:34:40), BBC Radio 3, 29 October 2016

This first collaboration between Oxford’s Christ Church Cathedral Choir, members of The Sixteen and Oxford Baroque – a tremendous combination, much to be encouraged – reveals Francesco Durante’s never-before published Requiem in C minor in all its 18th-century glory.Stephen Darlington has produced a performing edition, drawing on manuscript copies scattered across Europe, and conducts the elegant, richly melodic score with unique understanding. The soloists are uniformly excellent, and the string playing as crisp and alert as the fresh young voices of the Christ Church trebles.

Stephen Pritchard, The Observer, 30 October 2016
(Click here to see the online version of this review.)

…the singing is excellent from choir and soloists. And it is good to hear the distinctive sound of well-regulated boys’ voices taking the treble line.

Andrew Benson-Wilson
Early Music Reviews

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Francesco Durante (1684-1755)

Requiem Mass in C minor
1. Introitus. Requiem – Kyrie
2. Graduale. Requiem – Tractus
3. Sequentia. Dies irae
4. Sequentia. Tuba mirum
5. Sequentia. Mors stupebit
6. Sequentia. Quid sum miser
7. Sequentia. Recordare
8. Sequentia. Quaerens me
9. Sequentia. Ingemisco
10. Sequentia. Lacrimosa
11. Offertorium. Domine Jesu
12. Offertorium. Hostias
13. Sanctus – Osanna
14. Benedictus – Osanna
15. Agnus Dei
16. Communio
17. Libera me. Libera me (i)
18. Libera me. Dies illa
19. Libera me. Requiem aeternam
20. Libera me. Libera me (ii)
21. Responsorium

Organ Concerto in B flat major
22. Allegro
23. Grave
24. Allegro

Total playing time: 63.27

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