Dutoit conducts Fauré Review- An Easter week concert by The Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus

Guest Conductor Charles Dutoit led the Chicago Symphony Orchestra with the Chicago Symphony Chorus under the guidance of Duain Wolfe, and guest artists Israeli soprano Chen Reiss and German bass- baritone Matthias Goerne, on  Thursday, April 13, in an Easter week concert to be repeated on April 14 and 15 at Symphony Center, 220 S. Michigan, Chicago. The program consisted of works relevant to the upcoming Easter holiday, 3 uplifting and very special pieces of music, which explored the themes of inspiration, threat and ultimate transcendence. All the elements came together to produce a concert of surpassing beauty.


Conductor Charles Dutoit; photo by Robert Taylor

Dutoit, completing a 2-week residency here with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, is a much- decorated conductor who has captivated audiences throughout the world. Known for his ability to cut a clear swath through the most complicated scores, he demonstrated an absolute mastery of the balance required within each piece and in the scope of the program itself. 


The critically acclaimed Chicago Symphony Chorus, led by acclaimed Chicago Symphony Chorus Director and Conductor Duain Wolfe, 100 strong, acknowledged to be one of the finest such ensembles in the world, blended together perfectly in Fauré’s “Requiem”, not one voice out of consonance, all singing so softly yet producing together an all-enveloping polyphony of harmonic sound.


 After hearing Chen Reiss in the “Requiem”, delivering tones so pure and clear they alone constituted a spiritual experience, it is easy to understand why she was summoned to the Vatican 2 years ago to sing during the Christmas Mass; she described that experience as “Some kind of calling in the service of God”.

Soprano Chen Reiss; photo by Paul Marc Mitchell

Matthias Goerne is known as the finest Lieder singer of his generation; he mined a deep vein of feeling in  the “Requiem” with his appealing and flexible voice that lifted and projected with a deliberately phrased passion.


First on the program was Richard Wagner’s ”Good Friday Music” from “Parsifal”, 1877-1881, described by the composer as “A Festival Play for the Consecration of the Stage”. He claimed that in contemplating the composition, “Noble possibilities struck…with overwhelming force”. The piece as performed was extraordinarily gripping, with a deep repose coupled with a sonority filled with romance and spacious orchestral colors. It began in a dreamy, slow fashion, strings dominant, mounting slowly, retreating, returning again to a lyrical oboe-led melody drenched with orchestral sound; the music ended on a breath of fervor.

Bass-Baritone Matthias Goerne; photo by Marco Borggreve

Arthur Honegger’s “Symphony No. 3”, (Liturgique), 1945-46, is a fine example of his musical style, wherein simple melodies develop from one another. It has been said that in his orchestral scores, “Each group seems to have it’s own life, and speaks it’s own language”. Honegger had very strong feelings about World War 2; he was resident in Paris when it was occupied by the Nazis in 1940. He repeatedly refused to conduct his music either in Germany or over the German-controlled French radio. Shortly after the war ended, he composed his third symphony, “Liturgique”, naming the 3 movements after phrases from the Roman Catholic liturgy, ”Day of Wrath”, “Out of the Depths Have I Cried”, and “Grant us Peace”.


With an aggressive and stormy first movement, which opened on an instant of impressive sound by the Chicago Symphony in perfect alignment, the slow movement that followed was achingly meditative. The final movement built to a strong and dissonant climax completed by a long and lovely melody in coda. Each movement also contained a simple song towards the end that tied the work together, instilling a theme of peace.

Duain Wolfe, Director, Chicago Symphony Chorus; photo by Todd Rosenberg

After the intermission came Gabriel Fauré’s “Requiem in D minor”, Op. 48, 1887-1890, the choral-orchestral setting of which has become the best known of his large works. It has been said that it’s focus “Is on eternal rest and consolation”. The work is in 7 movements, scored for soprano and baritone soloists, mixed choir, orchestra and organ, and the 35-minute duration flew by as the massive combined talent ushered in a sublime experience for the transported audience. The piece contained a rich and warm strength, with Reiss and Goerne both contributing timbre and interpretation of tenderness infused with strength, in contrast to the ehereal nature of the Chorus’ offering. Dutoit brought the elements together in a culmination that felt like fulfillment.

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra with Maestro Charles Dutoit; photo by Alex Garcia


For information and tickets to all the fine programs of The Chicago Symphony Orchestra, go to the CSO website


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