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Poulenc: Figure Humaine
Francis Poulenc is now considered to be among the most important composers of choral music of the 20th Century. Yet his early career reveals no trace of the dazzling and idiosyncratic unaccompanied choral textures so abundantly produced in the second half of his life. This new collection of Poulenc’s choral works, virtually a ‘best of’, is centered on his masterwork, Figure Humaine. Even though it is only 20 minutes in length, the work is a supreme test of stamina, technical agility, range, aural skill and musicianship. The professional chamber choir Tenebrae (directed by former King’s Singer Nigel Short) are more than capable of tackling this repertoire and this disc promises to provide a new benchmark in interpretations of the work.
“[Le Figure Humaine is] not only one of Poulenc's greatest achievements, but one of the 20th century's most extraordinary choral pieces, with its waves of voices climaxing in the great shouts of Liberté in the closing moments, which Tenebrae control quite beautifully.” The Guardian, 3rd June 2010 ****
“an impeccable disc” The Observer, 20th June 2010
“Poulenc had vocal expertise in mind when he wrote his choral music, and that is what he gets in this fine selection of six works...all performed with colour and skill by Tenebrae.” The Telegraph, 18th June 2010 ****
“Tenebrae is equal to every challenge. The tuning is impeccable, the phrasing intelligent and never forced, the balance always adjusted to the demands of Poulenc's textures...Not least, the sopranos float ethereally in the more lyrical moments...A disc to be treasured.” BBC Music Magazine, August 2010 *****
“pristine performances” Financial Times, June 2010
“For purity and precision of tone, and flawless intonation, Nigel Short’s chamber choir Tenebrae is pretty much unbeatable...It’s quite a whirl, but Tenebrae’s firm sense of pitch keeps them upright and their beauty radiates like a halo. Warm, affecting music, thrillingly performed.” The Times, 31st July 2010 ****
“Their singing has a precision of pitch, a rhythmic vigour and a musical focus few choirs can equal...Nigel Short, similarly, has studied these scores to the extent that he realises every tiny nuance of Poulenc's writing and produces that kind of performance that offers an almost transparent level of textural precision.” Gramophone Magazine, October 2010
Critics' Disc of the Year - December 2010
BBC Music Magazine
Choral & Song Choice - August 2010
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Poulenc: Figure humaine & Motets
Scheduled for release on 3 June 2013. Order it now and we will deliver it as soon as it is available.
Valossa: From Darkness to Light
Kaamos Chamber Choir, Dani Juris
The Finnish Kaamos Chamber Choir has recorded on this new disc, Valossa - From darkness to light, a cappella repertoire from its varied performance programme. The items range from folk song arrangements, to classical, and from Renaissance, to present day. The emotions and stories portrayed in the songs trace a thematic transition from dark winter days to light summer nights. The present disc is the culmination of a journey lasting nearly five years. The choir is conducted by talented Dani Juris.
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Poulenc: Sacred & Secular Choral Music
Although Poulenc’s choral works have been steadily climbing in the public’s estimation over the last few years, they have not yet won the status that the composer himself felt that they deserved.
This reissue appears to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Netherlands Chamber Choir. It is without a doubt the best recording the choir ever made. Both CD's received rave reviews in the French press when they first appeared. Under the inspiring direction of Eric Ericson the choir gives unearthly performances. Combining both the Sacred and the Secular choral works, this reissue is a true monument for the artistry of Poulenc. The absolute peak on this CD is the recording of La figure humaine – a piece Poulenc wrote to a text by Paul Eluard who depicts the horrors of war and the universal longing for freedom: Liberté!
The CD comes at a special price: 2 CD's for the price of 1 midprice!
Marking the difference between them, this disc offers an insight into Poulenc’s return to religion with his sacred music for a cappella choir, juxtaposed with Poulenc as a humanist; his secular music for a cappella choir. Performed by the excellent Netherlands Chamber Choir and conducted by Eric Ericson, this disc is a fascinating survey of Poulenc’s choral works.
“What gloriously warm and uplifting music this is...Ericson draws superb singing, whether in the Romanesque devotional motets...or the robust earthniess of the early Chanson a boire.” Gramophone Magazine, April 2013
“it would be hard to better these performances. Clearly Ericson had prepared the choir impeccably with consistent purity of tone and an impressive transparency of texture displaying this music at its finest. In the sacred works there’s a satisfying degree of reverential expression and it is of such an elevated quality it feels almost mystical at times.” MusicWeb International, 19th April 2013
“A timely reminder of Poulenc's wonderful choral output, both sacred and secular. The performances are immaculate, if arguably a touch clinical.” BBC Music Magazine, June 2013 ****
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Half Monk / Half Rascal
Vocal music by Francis Poulenc
OUR Recordings is proud to announce the release of this great choir music by Francis Poulenc, which is standard repertoire for all professional choirs. On this release Stephen Layton and the Danish National Vocal Ensemble, put together a program representing both Poulenc`s secular and sacred choral music.
This cd is launched in connection to the much praised release of The Nightingale: “New Nordic Music for Recorder and Choir” (2011) with Michala Petri and Danish National Vocal Ensemble. One further CD is planned for next year.
Poulenc was a man of contradictions. The traditionalists called him a modernist, the modernists called him old-fashioned. The contradictions were almost glaring: a declared homosexual and devout Catholic in the first half of the twentieth century! Courageous? Indeed! He wrote modern music but couldn’t help creating melodies. That was to be both his good fortune and his misfortune. He knew so much about instruments and voices, and his music sounded so good that it could be regarded as poppish, and many people were loath to admit him to the serious musical world of Europe. Some snobs spoke of “French elegance”
“the Danish National Vocal Ensemble face some pretty stiff competition with his disc of unaccompanied Poulenc but they do not just hold their own; they sweep a lot of it aside. Under Stephen Layton's perceptive and often inspired direction, they capture the essential dichotomy of Poulenc's writing...this is a one-disc Poulenc compendium no Poulencophile should be without.” Gramophone Magazine, June 2012
“This is music which can make life feel worth living. Stephen Layton’s Danish choir give exemplary performances. At times there’s a welcome edge to the sound, a toughness, coupled with superb control...Fabulous, in other words.” The Arts Desk, 19th May 2012
“I have to say this is some of the most beautiful and moving choral singing I have ever heard. I suppose you could query the performance of the secular items in a resonant church. But it doesn't worry me, given the spirit and energy of the singing. Words too are crystal clear, with excellent French.” BBC Music Magazine, July 2012 *****
“It really is a superb disc, one of the finest collections of unaccompanied Poulenc choral music I have heard...Intonation is absolutely impeccable, and the vocal blend is perfect. The words, too, are very clear, with only the odd vowel, especially at the end of words such as “puisque” or “l’éternité”, betraying the fact that these are not native French speakers.” MusicWeb International, July 2012
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Poulenc: Figure Humaine
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
“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.” BBC Music Magazine, December 2011 *****
“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.” Gramophone Magazine, December 2011
“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.” International Record Review, January 2012
“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 Telegraph, 8th September 2011 ***
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Ludus Verbalis Vol. 1
Ensemble Vocal Aedes, Mathieu Romano (direction)
The first part in a series of four – two secular and two sacred – this recording sets out to explore different facets of a cappella choral music from the 20th and 21st centuries. Volume 1 takes its name from one of the nine cycles of secular music presented here. In this panorama of works, the word, through poetry, is central to musical creation; it becomes the subject of play, with the composers appropriating it and translating it into music. Alongside famous cycles from the repertoire, Ens Aedes have chosen to record a work commissioned by them from Philippe Hersant, as well as several cycles by other composers who are still active.
These cycles set words by William Shakespeare, Joseph von Eichendorff and Paul Éluard; the listener will also discover (or rediscover) poems by Charles d’Orléans, Louise Labé and Henry Felix.
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Poulenc - Secular Choral Music
Norddeutscher Figuralchor, Jörg Straube
This choir’s stylistic versatility is documented in numerous CD recordings and has toured extensively, appearing at many internationally renowned festivals. The disc is a fantastic representation of Poulenc’s a cappella works, performed brilliantly here, despite the technical difficulty.
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