Poulenc: Stabat mater; Gloria; Litanies à la vierge noire

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Poulenc
LABELS: Naxos
WORKS: Stabat mater; Gloria; Litanies à la vierge noire
PERFORMER: Danielle Borst (soprano), Eric Lebrun (organ); Choeur Régional Vittoria d’Ile-de-France, Orchestre de la Cité/Michel Piquemal
CATALOGUE NO: 8.553176 DDD
There are plenty of Poulenc Glorias around, so don’t be afraid to look further. But Poulenc can sound fearfully brash, and happily neither here falls into that trap.

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Tortelier draws a gorgeous, nocturnal lushness from his BBC orchestra, rich in brass and woodwind (echoes not only of Stravinsky, but also of Prokofiev). There’s some lovely, slightly plummy solo work from Janice Watson, suitably angst-ridden; the immensely alert, reliable choir packs a healthy punch where needed. By the closing fade-out we have perhaps soaked in just a bit too much same-pace Gounod-like amplitude. But sensitive contrasts, variety and feeling (in all voices) in the Stabat mater easily make up: very rewarding, at least in bursts.

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For sheer atmosphere in the Gloria I might have preferred Naxos’s French choir – if only we could hear it. Sadly it gets gobbled up in some mushy recess of the Salle Pleyel; the Stabat mater fares little better: a clogged start, then tinniness later on. Danielle Borst is an appealing soloist, and there’s an attractive, idiomatic, leaner feel to the playing. But if brisker instrumental passages work, the choral ones need Chandos’s polished BBC professionalism. Roderic Dunnett