Franck: Les béatitudes

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Franck
LABELS: Erato Ultima
WORKS: Les béatitudes
PERFORMER: Louise Lebrun (soprano), Jane Berbié (mezzo-soprano), Nathalie Stutzmann (alto), David Rendall, Peter Jeffes (tenor), Marcel Vanaud (baritone), François Loup, Daniel Ottevaere (bass); Radio France Choirs, Nouvel PO/Armin Jordan
CATALOGUE NO: 3984-24233-2 Reissue (1987)
To ears conditioned by Parsifal and Gerontius, Les béatitudes emerges fresh, fervent and lyrical – by no means the fusty pious monster of legend. Its composer’s naive religious sincerity should be held against him no more than Messiaen’s. True, it sprawls, but each Beatitude is a tone poem building through heightened moods to transfigurations like those that distinguish Franck’s familiar works. Confessional more than dramatic, it gives its best tunes to neither Christ nor devil but the chorus and orchestra, and some stretches of high excitement too.

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They are all strengths in this very live recording, made at Les Invalides in 1985. The cavernous acoustic hinders dense climaxes but elsewhere adds further glow to an already atmospheric, eloquent performance. Moments of dodgy tuning count for little except to clinical souls. Solo singers are reliable, the men better. As the set under comparison has opposite virtues, choose according to taste. Robert Maycock