Poulenc: Un soir de neige; Figure humaine; Chansons françaises; Petites voix; Sept chansons

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WORKS: Un soir de neige; Figure humaine; Chansons françaises; Petites voix; Sept chansons
PERFORMER: Netherlands Chamber Choir/Eric Ericson
Recordings of Poulenc’s choral music are happily neither rare nor lacking in quality. Among the treasure trove of riches in EMI’s complete edition there are some gems in this repertoire, while The Sixteen under Harry Christophers (Virgin) are also predictably excellent. Following their accounts of the sacred choral music, this new release from the Netherlands Chamber Choir under veteran conductor Eric Ericson collects together Poulenc’s remaining choral works under the epithet ‘secular’. While this division between sacred and secular, which places this disc and its predecessor into direct competition with the heartfelt intensity of Westminster Cathedral Choir and the cooler New London Chamber Choir respectively (both Hyperion), makes superficial sense, it is a little misleading. There is no fundamental difference between Poulenc’s most heartfelt religious music and his secular jaunts. For instance, the setting of Eluard’s Resistance poems, Figure humaine, is infused throughout with a barely concealed religiosity of sentiment. Ericson is no stranger to Poulenc’s music and, as with the earlier disc, these performances are wonderfully engaging. Apart from a couple of glitches in intonation, the Netherlanders possess a rich tone warm enough to keep out the chill of a winter’s evening, whether the music is sacred or profane. Christopher Dingle