Half Monk, Half Rascal: Choeurs a Cappella by Francis Poulenc

Half Monk, Half Rascal: Choeurs a Cappella by Francis Poulenc

by Stephen Layton

CD

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Overview

The title of the album featuring Stephen Layton and the Danish National Vocal Ensemble, Half Monk, Half Rascal, seems to set up a dichotomy between the piety of the composer's religious music and the whimsicality of his secular works. With a few exceptions in the "Chansons français," whose perky tempos stand out, there is not much stylistic contrast between the sacred and secular pieces until the rascally "Chanson à boire," which closes the album. That ultimately doesn't matter much, though, because, taken simply as collection of Poulenc's a cappella choral music, the album is largely successful and engaging. These are popular works spanning the composer's career that are likely to be familiar to Poulenc enthusiasts and include the cycles "Sept chansons," "Un soir de neige," and "Chansons françaises," and two groups for men's voices, "Quatres petites prières de Saint François d'Assise" and "Laudes de Saint Antoine de Padoue." Layton pays exquisitely close attention to the details of the scores, especially subtleties of dynamics, and the Danish National Vocal Ensemble aptly follows his lead. Even so, the performances don't always achieve the kind of idiomatic Gallic nuance, the intense emotional focus that characterizes the most memorable performance of Poulenc. In "La blanche neige," for instance, the performance misses the swirling sweep that the sensual melismas cry out for. The men's voices in "Quatre petites prières" come closest to conveying the composer's passion. The ensemble can't be faulted on technique; its tone is pure and well blended. The sound is clean and clear, with a warm ambience.

Product Details

Release Date: 03/27/2012
Label: Our Recordings
UPC: 0636943690628
catalogNumber: 8226906

Tracks

  1. Sept chansons, for chorus, FP 81
  2. Chanson à boire, for male chorus, FP 31
  3. Chansons françaises (8), for chorus, FP 130
  4. Laudes de Saint Antoine de Padoue (4), for male chorus, FP 172
  5. Un soir de neige, chamber cantata for 6 voices (or chorus), FP 126
  6. Ave Verum Corpus, motet for female voices, FP 154
  7. Quatre petites prières de Saint François d'Assise, for men's chorus, FP 142

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