- Ode à La Gastronomie, for chorus
- Pro Fumo, sound effect
This collection of French choral pieces may be designated an amûse-bouche, or chef's-choice hors d'oeuvre, but it makes a superb if light meal in itself, prepared by the English ensemble I Fagiolini ("The Little Beans"). You might be suspicious on grounds of previous early music specialists who have functioned well in only the most severe sort of 20th century music, but dig in! The centerpiece here is a world recorded premiere from the always delicious Jean Françaix (1912-1997), "Ode à la Gastronomie." This sets (and often comically distorts and parodies) passages from an early (1825) classic of food writing, Brillat-Savarin's La physiologie du goût. Including a fart joke later on, the work begins with the words "Adam, and you dear Eve, who led us to perdition for an apple, what would you have done for a turkey?" Françaix's platter pokes fun not only at French attitudes toward food but even a bit toward his own neoclassic style itself. The rest of the music is sensuous rather than funny, with choral songs by Poulenc, Milhaud, and Jean-Yves Daniel-Lesur ("Le Cantique des Cantiques," or Song of Songs, sorely underrated), interspersed with Satie "Gnossiènnes." For the dessert course there's an original work: a choral arrangement by Roderick Williams of the slow movement from Ravel's "Piano Concerto in G major." This is given fragments of text by Rimbaud and Baudelaire; take conductor Robert Hollingworth's advice and don't worry too much about the words (which aren't included along with the rest of the texts in the CD booklet), and you'll drift away into ecstasy by the end. The rather remote church acoustic doesn't suit a program that consists of chamber music par excellence, but in terms of choosing original repertoire and putting it together into a program that sustains a flavor in a satisfying way, this is nonpareil.