Netherlands Chamber Choir / Eric Ericson / Netherlands Chamber Orchestra

Poulenc: Sacred & Secular Choral Music

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Francis Poulenc thought highly of his own unaccompanied choral music, but when the two albums combined here were released in 1998 and 1999, major recordings of it were sparse. Since then, recordings by such crack choral groups as Tenebrae, the Sixteen, and the Danish National Vocal Ensemble have come along, and many of these do impressive things with the spacing and registral effects, what one writer called the "aeration," in the music. But this collection still has much to recommend it besides its budget price. The combination of sacred and secular provides food for thought in connection with how the composer's style was affected by his religious conversion in 1936. Clearly, such works as the Quatre petits prières de Saint François d'Assise (Four Little Prayers of St. Francis of Assisi), composed in 1948, reflect a new style that is simplified and pared down over and above the music's religious function. That said, the melodic essence of Poulenc's music, whose semi-popular quality has led to its description as "humanistic," remains constant and altogether recognizable over Poulenc's entire career, and with the exception of such explicitly folkish works as the early Chanson à boire, the idiom of the secular pieces is not far from that of the emotionally warm, intentionally Credo-less Mass in G major. The music has a down-to-earth quality that comes through very well in the readings here by the Netherlands Chamber Choir under Eric Ericson and may be lost in more virtuosic performances, although those too have their appeal. Serious fans of Poulenc, and serious choristers or choral directors of any stripe, should have this double album in their collections.

Track Listing - Disc 1

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
Quatre motets pour un temps de pénitence
1 3:20
2 3:57
3 4:17
4 3:33
Quatre petites prières de Saint François d'Assise
5 2:33
6 1:32
7 1:22
8 2:02
9 2:32
10 5:05
Quatre motets pour le temps de Noël
11 3:28
12 2:10
13 3:11
14 2:15
15 2:45
Laudes de Saint Antoine de Padoue
16 2:08
17 0:52
18 2:28
19 2:48
Messe en Sol majeur
20 3:55
21 4:00
22 2:18
23 4:07
24 5:13

Track Listing - Disc 2

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
Un soir de neige
1 1:21
2 1:43
3 2:14
4 1:12
Figure humaine
5 2:47
6 1:58
7 1:38
8 2:07
9 1:03
10 1:40
11 2:53
12 4:59
Chanson Françaises
13 2:09
14 1:47
15 0:45
16 2:13
17 5:26
18 1:22
19 3:43
20 2:10
21 4:03
Petites Voix
22 1:38
23 1:06
24 0:35
25 1:56
26 0:51
Sept chansons
27 1:17
28 1:43
29 1:26
30 2:49
31 2:16
32 2:02
33 2:02
blue highlight denotes track pick