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Twentieth Century Masters Volume 1 - Poulenc and His Contemporaries
In 2006, Edward Higginbottom celebrated 30 years as Director of Music at New College Oxford. During his time there the New College Choir has achieved international recognition and produced over 70 recordings, many of them worldwide best sellers. This release is the first in a trio of CDs exploring 20th-century choral music, grouped thematically by country. The journey begins in France, where we find Poulenc exploring his religious side, not something often associated with the rebellious and often cheeky Parisian. But he did maintain a strong spiritual streak, remarking once that “he’s not as religious as he’d like to be.” His liturgical writing is deeply contemplative and affecting in its simplicity, yet now and again his witty side will emerge. He shares the disc with his contemporaries Messiaen – represented by his only motet O sacrum convivium – and Pierre Villette who had strong links with the English choral tradition. His ambitious six-part piece Attende Domine was dedicated to the choir of Worcester Cathedral.
“very special … outstanding quality both musically and dramatically” Daily Telegraph
“The three works by Villette demonstrate the range and quality and the subtle radiance of his writing. O sacrum convivium!, Messiaen's only motet, is nearly five minutes of genuine bliss, typically sensuous and celestial, and close in feeling to his early organ music.” Gramophone Magazine, October 2006
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Villette - Choral Music
‘The Holst Singers—Stephen Layton’s ‘other’ great choir—is every bit as skilled, sonorous and sensitive as his better-known group, Polyphony. Very few conductors manage this sort of exquisite phrasing, subtle nuance, gleaming sound, and absolute control that you hear from any of Layton’s choirs. Hyperion records them beautifully and offers its usual complete and classy booklet’ (American Record Guide)
“Pierre Villette (1926-98) follows on the stylistic heels of Poulenc and Duruflé, with an added twist of sensuality… it's ravishing stuff when performed as well as this. The Holst Singers create great clouds of texture, which surge, form, and melt before your ears. The airborne quality each phrase achieves is testament both to Stephen Layton's irrepressible sense of shaping and to the rapport between choir and conductor.” BBC Music Magazine, April 2006 *****
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