ALBUM TITLE: Villette: Choral Works
WORKS: trophes polyphoniques pour le Veni Creator; Attende, Domine; Inviolata; O magnum misterium; Hymne à la Vierge
PERFORMER: Holst Singers/Stephen Layton
CATALOGUE NO: CDA 67539
Pierre Villette (1926-98) follows on the stylistic heels of Poulenc and Duruflé, with an added twist of sensuality – it’s lush, and plush, and ever so slightly effete. If this music were a person, it would forever be reaching for the smelling salts. But it’s ravishing stuff when performed as well as this.
The Holst Singers create great clouds of texture, which surge, form, and melt before your ears. The sound is soft-focus, where consonants retire coyly behind banks of choral colour. The airborne quality each phrase achieves is testament both to Stephen Layton’s irrepressible sense of shaping and to the rapport between choir and conductor. It would be churlish of me to point to the odd threadbare line or misplaced consonant – this is music that expands to 20 parts at times, and presents severe technical challenges. Whether Hyperion could have captured a slightly less muzzy sound is another matter; I personally prefer to hear the pop and crackle of a choir at close quarters, but perhaps you can’t have it both ways. In any event, nothing on this disc knocks the Holst Singers off their lofty perch – it’s easy to forget they are not a professional outfit. For a bag of musical bonbons à la violette, this disc can’t be beaten. William Whitehead