This 2016 release followed on an immensely successful 2014 performance of the Fauré Requiem, Op. 48, and in many ways it's a partner to the earlier recording. The Fauré had a historical-performance aspect, re-creating the 1889 premiere even down to the specific organ stops used. In this case, historical performance is not involved: the version of the Duruflé Requiem performed is not the original, but a 1961 revision for mezzo-soprano, chorus, organ, and chamber orchestra. But the forces bring the music close to the overall effect of the Fauré, with boy sopranos of the Choir of King's College connecting the two performances. In both recordings, the organ is brought to the foreground and issues almost electronic-like sounds that shoot beams of mystic light through the small Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment. It's gorgeous, and it might easily result in a revival for this version of the work. Conductor Stephen Cleobury does wonderfully with his mezzo-soprano soloist: for sampling, you could luxuriate in the "Pie Jesu," with its restrained instrumental backing making the music less operatic and more cantata-like. You also get a pair of little-known Duruflé works, the Quatre Motets sur des thèmes Grégoriens, Op. 10, and the Messe "Cum jubilo," Op. 11, with chorus, organ, and one soloist; each of these could challenge the conception of Duruflé as a one-hit wonder. Yet the biggest news here is the Duruflé Requiem itself, and the way the work retains its slightly otherworldly quality in this intimate version.
Donizetti composed Roberto Devereux during a period of intense creativity. The work had an uninterrupted 10-year run after its première in 1837, before going on to enjoy international success throughout Europe and in the Americas, with versions in French, German, Russian and Hungarian. When Donizetti moved to Paris in 1838, he furnished the opera with the overture that paraphrases the British anthem God Save the Queen. The Queen dominates from her very first appearance, a true protagonist, performed here by the great Mariella Devia: her pure voice, impeccable intonation and great stage presence, all combined with the technical qualities of her voice, led to an extended standing ovation. It was a triumph, too, for Sonia Ganassi (Sarah) and the tenor Stefan Pop (Devereux).