Alfred Bruneau: Requiem; Claude Debussy: Pelléas et Mélisande, Symphony / Ludovic Morlot

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This Cypres CD contains two rarities from the late Romantic repertoire by French composers Alfred Bruneau and Claude Debussy. The Bruneau work is his Requiem, first performed in London in 1896. The music of Debussy comes by way of Romanian-born French composer Marius Constant, who was one of several composers who penned suites from the music of Debussy's opera Pelléas et Mélisande.

Alfred Bruneau (1857-1934) was a student of Massenet, who greatly influenced his style, as did Saint- Saëns, Gounod, Chabrier and Wagner; listening to this work, I often felt a presage of Poulenc's harmonies in Bruneau's music. His most significant area of activity was opera. A very early work written in 1888, this Requiem is an expansive composition for large orchestra with six trumpets added to the typical section, two harps, organ, a mixed chorus, children's chorus and a quartet of singers. The music is constructed in highly contrasting sections, but is generally very lyrical and of a contemplative nature. However, with all the forces Bruneau has made available to himself, it certainly has its moments of raw power. The quartet of singers is very fine. I especially enjoyed the warmth of tone and nuanced singing of soprano Mireille Delunsch. The performance also features the Children's Chorus of La Monnaie, who sing about as in tune as any children's choir I've heard (you can hear them in the second of two samples from the Bruneau in the sidebar). All of the performing forces are excellent.

If you're not familiar with Debussy's opera Pelléas et Mélisande, perhaps because you're not an opera fan, this orchestral arrangement by Marius Constant provides an opera-without-words version for the many people, I'm sure, who would like to hear more orchestral Debussy. The music sounds very well suited to the purely orchestral genre and works very well as a symphonic poem.

The recordings were made live in concerts from 2012 and 2013. I must admit, I was unaware of this until reading as much in the notes. In retrospect, I did recall a little stage shuffling just before an imposing tutti section, but really, that was about it - no audience coughing, rustling or clapping, and Cypres' recorded sound is very fine.

Alfred Bruneau: Requiem: Dies Irae & Tuba Mirum - not from the recording under review here, but an opportunity to sample a little more from the work