Not knowing any music of Maurice Durufle, I didn’t know what to expect out of his Requiem. A quick look showed that he was a French contemporary of Francis Poulenc and appeared to be a fairly conservative type, judging by the descriptions of his work. I assumed I would be hearing music of a fairly generic Romantic variety but, while it wasn’t very disconnected from Romanticism, it certainly wasn’t a humdrum reactionary debacle either.
The piece was performed by the International Orange Chorale of San Francisco, conducted by Zana Fiala in its solo organ accompaniment incarnation. Interestingly enough, Durufle arranged the work in three ways which I can only guess is a tip of the hat to Catholicism. Organ duties were handled by Stephen Lind with excellent attention to timbre. Lind’s handling of the ranks provided the strongest sense of drama to a performance with a bit too much balance. Certainly a Requiem shouldn’t be evoking feelings of existential passion but talking about death shouldn’t be a neutral affair either. Kudos to Fiala for handling the music with grace at least.
Megan Stetson and Pawel Walerowski took up the solo mezzo-soprano and cello parts respectively during the Pie Jesu section. They blended beautifully with the organ and seemed to add just the right amount of flash, which was fairly little flash. That’s far from a complaint as the nature of the writing seems to suggest that this is the desired effect. I know it worked for me, as did the majority of the concert.