Soir sur la plaine; La source; La tempête; Les sirenes; Renouveau; Sous bois; Soleils de Septembre; Pour les funérailles d’un soldat; Vieille prière bouddhique; Psalm 24; plus piano pieces
Orpheus Vokalensemble/Michael Alber; Antonii Baryshevskyi (piano)
Carus 83.489 79:28 mins
Choral music dominates the output of Lili Boulanger’s short life. This fulsome disc acts as a fine tribute on the centenary of her death, with 11 works encompassing everything other than the two largest psalm settings. Everything is accompanied by piano rather than the orchestra intended for six of these works (a further two exist in both orchestral and piano versions). With pianist Antonii Baryshevskyi’s broad timbral palette there are few moments where anything is lacking, even in the bombast of Boulanger’s setting of Psalm 24. It also feels entirely natural for the choral works to be preceded by the Prelude in D flat, and for there to be an interlude of three further short piano works.
As is common with Boulanger, this disc is clearly a labour of love. Orpheus Vokalensemble under Michael Alber are strong advocates, bristling with energy when full-voiced, as at the end of the Vieille prière bouddhique, yet beautifully fine-grained in passages of sustained hush, such as at the end of Soir sur la plaine. The first recording of Soleils de Septembre, a tender work that encapsulates the melancholic beauty of her writing, is especially welcome.
While Boulanger’s often complex yet luminescent choral harmonies are negotiated with apparent ease, the solo contributions, sung by assorted members of the choir, are less secure. Nonetheless, Alber perfectly judges the ebb and flow of these marvellous works and having so much of Boulanger’s choral music in one place underlines her remarkable achievement in so few years.