Giulio Prandi & Sandrine Piau - Jommelli: Requiem - Gramophone

It was as recently as July that I welcomed a high-quality recording of Jommelli’s Requiem that at last superseded a scrappy live one from Moldavan forces made over 20 years ago. A mere matter of months later, another now joins it, presenting a new and contrasting view of the work.

Giulio Prandi fields a choir of 20 rather than Peter Van Heyghen’s eight, and employs ‘name’ soloists rather than step-outs from the choir. (The orchestras in both cases are of the order with organ.) While Van Heyghen revealed the drama of the work – Jommelli was, after all, a creature of the opera stage – it was very much an ‘ecclesiastical’ drama. With names including Sandrine Piau among his roster, Prandi lobs in a handful of greasepaint too. Accents are attacked rather than smoothed over. Soloists ornament and elaborate freely; the first overlapping entry of soprano Sandrine Piau and countertenor Carlo Vistoli is exquisite in its poise and stasis.

It’s far from a presentation of the work as an opera in clerical garb, though. Whereas Van Heyghen offered the work as a ‘concert Requiem’ – the composed music from beginning to end – Prandi interpolates appropriate plainchant around the Introit and before the Libera me. Perhaps it’s questionable whether repeated listening will bear around 15 per cent of the work being chanted in this manner; Van Heyghen, on the other hand, fills out his disc with more Jommelli – a Miserere in the stile antico.

Either way, the opportunity to hear more of Jommelli’s Requiem utterly persuades one of its artistic strength and the high quality of its craftsmanship. Who would have thought two such worthy recordings of such a rarity would have been made within two months of one another?

06 October 2020