Fauré, Duruflé, Villette, Poulenc, Debussy, Saint-Saens & Ravel

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COMPOSERS: Debussy; Durufle; Faure; Poulenc; Saint-Saens & Ravel; Villette
LABELS: Meridian
ALBUM TITLE: Collection: French Choral Music
WORKS: Works by Fauré, Duruflé, Villette, Poulenc, Debussy, Saint-Saëns & Ravel
PERFORMER: Choir of Clare College, Cambridge/Timothy Brown
CATALOGUE NO: CDE 84370

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Two discs by Cambridge-based choirs confirm the city’s reputation as a centre of excellence. The high standard of the mixed choir of Clare College is no surprise: with so few posts for female choral scholars, who could wonder at the concentrated excellence of the top line? But Kibblewhite’s Cambridge Chorale, in only its fourth year of existence, is similarly impressive. The Chorale has a forward-looking programme: a young, previously undiscovered Latvian, Dubra, mixed with wordless sci-fi mood music that sounds synthesized, but isn’t, and some crisply presented Monteverdi and Barber. The choir’s warm, vibrant sound and the obvious commitment of its 45 singers suggest it will go far. Dubra’s works mix the usual Eastern European minimalists fare with the odd, surprising modern effect; the traditional Ave Maria suddenly collapses into a slow descending glissando – as if someone has pulled the plug on the CD player. Clare College Choir’s programme is at once more traditional and more coherent than the Cambridge Chorale’s, mixing familiar Fauré and Duruflé numbers (exquisitely sung) with the less familiar, such as Ravel’s only work for unaccompanied choir. Pronunciation is good. Meridian’s recorded sound is excellent, its clarity catching every delicate nuance of the phrasing; the resonance makes the sound radiant without being distracting.

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Janet Banks