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Sarah Fox (soprano), Rupert Gough (organ), Cecily Beer (harp) (Ad Fontes)

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

Works by Vierne, Franck, Büsser, Langlais, Messiaen et al
Sarah Fox (soprano), Rupert Gough (organ), Cecily Beer (harp)
Ad Fontes AF009   69:58 mins

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The Angélus makes a fascinating theme for this exquisite recital. The thrice-daily act of Catholic devotion prompts soprano Sarah Fox and organist Rupert Gough to explore some intriguing corners of (mostly) French sacred song from Franck to Messiaen, encompassing figures such as Caplet, Langlais and both Boulanger sisters en route. Vierne’s Les Angélus sets the scene, its three songs evoking the feelings of praying at morning, noon and evening respectively, and the tolling Angelus bell depicted in the organ. This is balanced at the album’s conclusion by Flor Peeters’s striking Speculum Vitae (Mirror of Life), which follows a similar path, but preceded by a song depicting night that is itself a journey from dark to light and back.

Fox is splendid throughout, bringing expressive directness to Roger-Ducasse’s Ave Regina cælorum, while her rich vibrato and burnished radiance are on display in Chausson’s harmonically quirky Pater Noster. Gough’s judicious playing and choice of registrations lifts the voice, enabling Fox to soar, yet remain intimate. The delectable performance of Messiaen’s O Sacrum Convivium! in its soprano and organ incarnation is a genuine rarity (though not a premiere recording as erroneously claimed in publicity). The simple reverence of Langlais’s Ave Maria is especially touching, as is Büsser’s heartfelt Le sommeil de l’enfant Jésus, one of several songs to feature the impeccable harpist Cecily Beer. Overall, a rewarding recital to enjoy at any time of day.

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Christopher Dingle