Poulenc: Gloria; Stabat Mater; Litanies

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Poulenc
LABELS: Virgin
WORKS: Gloria; Stabat Mater; Litanies
PERFORMER: Catherine Dubosc (soprano) Westminster Singers, City of London Sinfonia/Richard Hickox
CATALOGUE NO: VC 7 59286 2 DDD
Poulenc’s Stabat Mater (1950) and Gloria (1959) are recorded here with his earliest religious work, Litanies à la vierge noire. Litanies, written in 1935 after Poulenc’s return to Catholicism, was scored for female chorus and organ. The women’s voices of the Westminster Singers offer an extraordinary range of sound and colour, alternating declamation with ethereal chromatic moments, sensitively punctuated and supported by the Sinfonia and Hickox.

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The Stabat Mater and Gloria were both composed for soprano, chorus and orchestra. The former’s opening bass entry, marked ‘très intense et très doux’, should have been stronger, and Catherine Dubosc occasionally has an edgy quality, but her sweeping lines in ‘Fac ut portem’ are wonderful. From the drama and tension of ‘Quis est homo’ to the tonal contrast and pathos of the ‘Sancta mater’ and ‘Quando corpus’, this is an exciting and moving performance.

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In the well-contrasted Gloria, the rhythmic fun and energy of ‘Laudamus te’ and ‘Domine fili unigenite’ are truly ‘très vite et joyeux’. Dubosc shapes poignant lines in all her solos but her ‘Domine Deus’ is achingly slow. Poulenc described his Gloria as a ‘grand choral symphony’ and Hickox’s recording certainly justifies that description. Elisse McDougall