This spectacular new release of Maurice Duruflé’s complete choral output uncovers hidden gems of French classical music.
Infused with modal harmonies and plainsong, Maurice Duruflé's choral works look back to Gregorian chant. The composer also found inspiration in the likes of Gabriel Fauré and Claude Debussy, incorporating definite lines and close harmonies into his music, and the result is astonishingly simple. His works were part of a whole stylistic movement in the 20th century (one that was far removed from neoclassicism) that tried to trace music back to its origins, separating itself from all the trappings of theatre and performance, and moving away from the highly abstract tendencies that characterised much of the music in the post-war period.
Is Gregorian chant the “mother” of all music? Quite possibly. Duruflé aimed to create a serene, gentle mood all the while echoing a contemporary trend, one that was still emerging yet already rather developed, centred around harmony and floating atmospheres in the hope of bringing people together in communion.
With little to show by way of recordings yet much by way of talent, the Houston Chamber Choir give a beautiful performance of the French composer's works. Their radiant singing is well worth discovering, made all the more breathtaking by the generous acoustics of the Edythe Bates Old Recital Hall at Rice University, which allow the conductor Robert Simpson to use broad phrasings. The conductor adds an especially touching quality to these naturally expressive works, making this recording – which is as moving as the composer's earlier recordings (Erato) - an ideal gateway into Duruflé’s hypnotic universe (Messe “Cum Jubilo”).
It should be noted that despite his relatively long life, Duruflé’s composed only fourteen works. His final composition Notre Père (which lasts just ninety seconds!) was written especially for the Catholic Church though was never performed due to its sheer difficulty. This modest number of compositions reflects Duruflé’s crippling self-criticism and continuous search for perfection. This Houston Chamber Choir recording is a wonderful opportunity to rediscover one of the best kept secrets of the 20th century. © Qobuz