ISO contrasts Duruflé with Beethoven 

Orchestra's first performance of Duruflé Requiem

click to enlarge Guest conductor Giancarlo Guerrera
  • Guest conductor Giancarlo Guerrera

In the late 19th century it was the Fauré Requiem which escorted the listener through the various parts of the Catholic Mass for the Dead by omitting the cacophonous "Dies irae" and adding a final "In paradisum" to place him/her in heaven—both of which the liturgical (church service) requiems fail to do. In 1947, Maurice Duruflé, whether deliberately taking his cue from Fauré or not, completed his Requiem—with the same omission/addition. Out of a lifetime achievement of only eleven published works, the composer's Requiem is his one claim to fame. And that fame must be highly qualified since this Friday's ISO's performance was the first ever.

Out of several performer categories Duruflé published, Indianapolis Symphonic Choir director Eric Stark and ISO guest conductor Giancarlo Guerrero chose the orchestra with massed chorus—184 strong—and no soloists. As the group began the " I. Introit" on Gregorian themes, one hears a slight resemblance to Ravel, using church modes to highlight its harmonic construction. Practically the whole work is cast in slow and soft shades. One exception takes place in the "VIII Liberal me" wherein Duruflé reprises a "Dies illa - Dies irae" with a brief orchestral exclamatory tutti, just about the only one we hear.

Guerrero led orchestra and chorus in what was generally an exemplory manner, revealing beautiful chordal transitions here and there rising out of the reverie. While the chorus and orchestra blended well, the former's diction was not well articulated; we experienced a "choir" effect exaggerated by the large number of singers. In "V. Pie Jesu" only female singers were employed, with expected better lyric clarity.

click to enlarge ISC director Eric Stark
  • ISC director Eric Stark

Following intermission, no greater contrast could be expected than Guerrero conducting Beethoven's Symphony No. 6 in F, Op. 68 ("Pastorale")—more than a secular counterpart to the Duruflé. The first program symphony ever written specifically as such features five movements instead of the usual four, a thunderstorm depicted in the fourth movement with timpanist Jack Brennan pounding out the thunder, the piccolo the lightning, and two trombones (instead of the universally used three) added in the finale: "Shepherd's Song."

Guerrero conducted the Sixth off times with an absence of baton motion, notably in movement 2—"The scene by the Brook. "That despite the strings keeping the beat throughout. The performance as a whole was exemplary if not quite displaying razor sharp attacks. May 20

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