McLelland, Laube Mold Exquisite Duruflé 'Requiem' in Birmingham, Ala., Performance
The Birmingham News
By Michael Huebner
5 stars out of 5
Independent Presybyterian Church Choir, Jeff McLelland, conductor
Nathan Laube, organist; Daniel Seigel, baritone; Gloria Parvin, mezzo-soprano; Wei Liu, cellist
Sunday, Independent Presbyterian Church, Birmingham, Ala.
Think of the Requiem, and Mozart, Brahms, Verdi and Faure come immediately to mind. Whatever forces drove those composers to sublime inspiration in setting this ancient liturgy were shared by Maurice Duruflé in 1947, though he isn't often given his proper due.
The sun-drenched stained glass at Independent Presbyterian Church Sunday afternoon set the ambiance for a resplendent performance of Duruflé's 45-minute, nine-part setting. Under the direction of IPC music master Jeff McLelland, the performance had several things working in its favor. Though not a particularly difficult work for the choir, it requires fortitude and visceral instinct, which McLelland instilled in abundance to his 39-voice IPC Choir. They, too, might have been stirred by Nathan Laube, the young phenom from the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia who accompanied on organ.
Laube began the concert with another Duruflé piece, the three-movement Suite for Organ, Op. 5. As he did at an IPC recital last November, he impressed with his clean lines and transparent textures. He found the innate drama, introspection and repose in the Prelude and complemented majestic chords with warbling runs in the Toccata.
In the "Requiem," Laube was the solid-as-a-rock foundation, never dominating, always underscoring the chorus in perfect balance. Sopranos and altos rose to the task in the stairstep chords in the "Sanctus," and again in the angelic "In Paradisum." Tenors and basses stepped up the drama on the text "dies illa, dies irae" in the "Libera Me." A trio in "Pie Jesu" spotlighted mezzo-soprano Gloria Parvin's expressive solo voice and Wei Liu's heartfully rendered cello obbligato. Baritone Daniel Seigel sang with strength and focus in his two solos.
McLelland's reading of this gorgeous score was equal parts intellect and instinct, but he also assembled the right combination of musicians to do so.