07 April 2012

Gounod: Mors et Vita

Easy CD-DA | FLAC tracks | Covers | 730 Mb
2 CD | Date CD: 1992 | EMI | 156:00
CD 1
CD 2
Mors et Vita is probably best known by the one movement "Judex" which has made its way on to many compilation recordings because of its immediate appeal fitting for an "easy listening" CD. Having heard it thus myself, I wanted to learn more and was thrilled to find this magnificent recording.
The oratorio was the second of a proposed trilogy of oratorios written on commission by Charles Gounod for the Birmingham Festival. The work is divided in three sections; the first (Death) is basically a Requiem Mass, and the second is termed Judgement, and the final section is about Eternal Life.
Throughout this recording the musicianship of the performers is magnificently on display. Though the work is on the whole too long, as a recording one can sit back and wallow in the rich score, the beautiful voices of Barbara Hendricks, Nadine Denize, John Aler and Jose van Dam, and the wonderfully controlled emotion of Maestro Michael Plasson. The chorus is magnificent and the orchestra performs with a rich variety of color and character.
The music shows the experience gained by Gounod over years of writing for the opera in its dramatic content and incredible pacing. The quartet "Quid sum miser" is music that only Gounod could write and is remarkably effective. The central section of the Requiem - Dies Irae - is without doubt the most inspired, being broken down into eight parts of choruses, quartets, duets and solos. The string writing in the soprano solo "sed signifer sanctus" is wonderfully illustrious of the idea of happiness and richness. Of course "Judex" (The Judge) stands out for its incredible theme which seems to grow and grow until the chorus enters with an incredible unison passage over this wonderful orchestral writing.
From a performers point of view, this work suffers from its length, but with judicial cuts it could easily be restored to the concert stage. I believe that it has not been performed in concert in the United States since the 1950's. In the meantime, this recording preserves the work in the hearts of many lovers of great oratorio writing.
Brendan Townsend
Music Director, Laredo Philharmonic Orchestra
Barbara Hendricks (Soprano)
Nadine Denize (Mezzo Soprano)
John Aler (Tenor)
José Van Dam (Bass Baritone)
Toulouse Capitole Orchestra, Orféon Donostiarra
Conductor: Michel Plasson

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

THis was always the best recording and a first rate performance

Many tks