Muse Sings-Fauré Fondness by Mary E. Root
2016.08.28 01:55:52

The DeKalb Choral Guild, under the direction of Mary Root, will perform Fauré’s Requiem, Op. 48with orchestra and arrangements of Southern Harmony hymns interwoven on Saturday 5 November at 7:30 p.m. at Living Grace Lutheran Church in Tucker, Georgia.


I’ve been pondering why I harbor such an affinity for the Fauré Requiem.  While I appreciate many of the great choral masterworks, I am not one who pines to conduct many of them anymore -- I gravitate toward short form contemporary works.  I’ve asked myself “why Fauré, and not Mozart or Brahms or Duruflé?”  I’ve asked myself, “if told tomorrow I could never conduct another masterwork, would I be sad?”  The answer is “not really . . .except for Fauré. “ 


It is widely accepted that the Fauré is a more consoling, intimate, and far gentler setting of the Mass for the Dead than most.  The lyricism of the melodic lines is extraordinary, and the orchestration is subdued and sweet with violas living on top of the heap rather than violins. 

The history of the work provides some interest as well.  I needn’t rehash all the well-known research about the various editions and the evolution of this work except to say that I have a strong preference for the version edited by John Rutter in 1983.  I can recount a personal story around this particular edition that some might find interesting and replete with namedropping. 


Back in the mid-1980s I had the privilege of singing as soprano soloist under Mr. Rutter for a performance of his own Requiem.  I had the added good fortune of being invited to join a small group for lunch with Mr. Rutter one day during the rehearsals for the concert.  At the time I was completing my masters degree in music history and literature with an emphasis on music editing, and I was keen to ask him about the process of his Fauré edition.  He was quite obliging. 

Mr. Rutter told me that there had been much interest over the years to get hands on the original manuscript to create an edition truer to the work than that of the large orchestral version (which was not created by Fauré but rather delegated to his assistant Roger-Ducasse); the key to the story is the getting hands on the original manuscript, which is housed in the Biblioteque Nationale in Paris.  The story goes that the librarian in charge of the manuscript was rather stingy in allowing access to it, and Rutter recounts having to sit at a table to hand copy the manuscript with the certain librarian hanging over his shoulder the entire time informing Rutter that his edition was unnecessary since the librarian himself planned to issue his own such edition.  Rutter persevered, and the librarian did not publish his own edition so far as I know.  Further, unraveling the history of the different extant versions to emerge with an ideal version was intriguing and reinforced my burgeoning belief that good editions and notation are integral to good, authentic performance. 


Rutter’s edition was a big deal to me.  I had performed the large and widely known orchestral version as a choral singer in undergraduate school, and the unwieldy orchestration seemed incongruous with the exquisite choral writing.   With Rutter’s edition, everything fell into place for me, and I became enamored with Fauré’s “petit Requiem” that now was truly petit.

All those reasons are likely contributors to my special love of this work, but it still doesn’t explain why I am captivated by it anymore than other works with their own intrigue.    


The topic of aesthetics and value judgment applied to art is a fascination for me – I am strongly reluctant to use the words “taste” and “personal” applied to art.   I listen to and look at music as a craft with discernable qualities that lend themselves to value judgments.   And while I can enumerate various examples of what makes Fauré an enduring work of art, it still doesn’t explain my deeper affection for it over other works.  Qualitative value judgments aside, I must admit to a love affair with this work’s ineffable beauty. 


MaryRoot landscapeMary E. Root, Director/Conductot of the DeKalb Choral Guild

Tags: Faure Requiem | DeKalb Choral Guild | John Rutter


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