To issue a CD of Poulenc's most important choral work is to make a huge statement, and to take something of a risk. Why does one do it? Aren't there enough recordings already? Having said that, in my case it's simply dire necessity. This work is so beautiful, so impressive, and so important to the canon of twentieth-century choral music, that I cannot resist having a say of my own. I do believe that Poulenc´s 12-part Figure humaine is the most beautiful and impressive a cappella choral work that I know. The poet Eluard and composer Poulenc formed a perfect match. Eluard's poignant and sinister surrealistic texts are very moving, and their wonderfully expressive language depicts the horrors of the Second World War. It is without doubt a harrowing work, with a pièce de résistance to end: the eighth and final movement Liberté. In the most beautiful words, it expresses the omnipresent urge for liberty. Poulenc's setting is simply wonderful, with a gigantic buildup to the concluding, ultimate cry of LIBERTÉ! It is a great joy to perform this sort of music with my Swedish Radio Choir. The ensemble is a very strong group, and most eager to stretch its boundaries. The strength of the group is not merely the sum of its individual qualities. At the moment when these qualities merge into one, the group develops still further, and the ensemble attains a higher elevation. However important blending of the sound may be, it may not be at the expense of individual colour and personality. Choirs are frequently recorded from a considerable distance, perhaps to improve the blend. I often find the resulting sound to be distant, and detrimental to the clarity of the text.
The recording technique of Channel Classics seeks to establish a synthesis, combining directness and clarity with spatial effect. This is exactly my own approach to choral timbre: the choir must achieve the greatest unity and blend, but also allow space for individual colour. It is at such moments that the listener feels personally involved, and the music gains a human aspect. I am convinced that this is the sound Poulenc had in mind when he wrote Figure humaine. Peter Dijkstra
Poulenc, Messe En Sol Majeur (1937) : Kyrie
Poulenc, Messe En Sol Majeur (1937) : Gloria
Poulenc, Messe En Sol Majeur (1937) : Sanctus
Poulenc, Messe En Sol Majeur (1937) : Benedictus
Poulenc, Messe En Sol Majeur (1937) : Agnus Dei
Poulenc, Sept Chansons (1936) : La Blanche Neige
Poulenc, Sept Chansons (1936) : A Peine Défigurée
Poulenc, Sept Chansons (1936) : Par Une Nuit Nouvelle
Poulenc, Sept Chansons (1936) : Tous Les Droits
Poulenc, Sept Chansons (1936) : Belle Et Ressemblance
Poulenc, Sept Chansons (1936) : Marie
Poulenc, Sept Chansons (1936) : Luire
Poulenc, Un Soir De Neige (1944) : De Grandes Cuillers De Neige...
Poulenc, Un Soir De Neige (1944) : La Bonne Neige...
Poulenc, Un Soir De Neige (1944) : Bois Meurtri...
Poulenc, Un Soir De Neige (1944) : La Nuit La Froid La Solitude...
Poulenc, Figures Humaines (1943) : De Tous Les Printemps Du Monde...
Poulenc, Figures Humaines (1943) : En Chantant Les Servantes S'élancent
Poulenc, Figures Humaines (1943) : Aussi Bas Que Le Silence...
Poulenc, Figures Humaines (1943) : Toi Ma Patiente...
Poulenc, Figures Humaines (1943) : Riant Du Ciel Et Des Planètes
Poulenc, Figures Humaines (1943) : Le Jour M'étonne Et La Nuit Me Fait Peur...
Poulenc, Figures Humaines (1943) : La Menace Sous Le Ciel Rouge...
Poulenc, Figures Humaines (1943) : Liberté
8th September 2011
“Poulenc felt his choral works contained the best of him, and this CD makes one think he was right...There’s an innate nobility in this music, which the choir brings out superbly. The sopranos float Poulenc’s high lines with ease, and his densely packed harmonies register with total clarity.”
“The Mass, performed with unusual power as well as the expected gentle lucidity, gives the CD an arresting start, and Figure Humaine is properly the climax, its closing E a calm anticipation of triumph rather than a desperate shriek.”
“The Swedish Radio Choir joins a very few professional ensembles...in being fully equal to the challenges of tuning and dynamic flexibility that larger ensembles must negotiate with inevitable losses in rhythmic freedom. Ribbons of joy fly brightly through the Gloria and Sanctus of the Mass from 1937...Dijkstra keeps the music moving and flowing...the bitter scherzo of 'Riant du ciel' is pointed with astonishing brilliance.”
“The absolute security of the intonation, the effortless quiet singing of the sopranos at the top of the range, the rhythmic precision and expressive phrasing are all features that mark this out as one of the exceptional recordings of [Figure humaine]....Dijkstra's conducting moulds the music lovingly but never indulgently. If this piece is a priority, then I commend this disc without reservation.”
Click on any of the works listed above for alternative recordings.