Poulenc Sept Chansons

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Francis Poulenc
LABELS: OUR Recordings
ALBUM TITLE: Poulenc Sept Chansons
WORKS: Sept chansons; Quatre petites prières de Saint François d’Assise; Un soir de neige, etc
PERFORMER: Danish National Vocal Ensemble/Stephen Layton


No one is pretending Poulenc’s mélodies and instrumental music are without their performing problems. But, rather curiously, he left many of his most fearsome challenges for his choral music: in phrasing, balance, articulation, register and, above all, tuning. For every piece that sits comfortably in a modal armchair, there’s another that stuns with chromatic leaps and bounds – and often the two styles interlock.

So one approaches every new recording of this repertoire with slight trepidation. Twenty seconds is usually enough. As it was here. After which all I could say was ‘Hoorah!’ And I went on saying it, interspersed every now and again with ‘Wow!’ (initially the soprano top B on track 4). I see I’m now less than half way through the review, and I suppose if I just went on writing ‘Hoorah!’ and ‘Wow!’ my editor might have to reduce my fee, which of course would be a serious matter. But really my only cavil is over a few errors in the printed French and Latin texts. Of the performances, I have to say this is some of the most beautiful and moving choral singing I have ever heard. I suppose you could query the performance of the secular items in a resonant church. But it doesn’t worry me, given the spirit and energy of the singing. Words too are crystal clear, with excellent French. Am I allowed to say ‘Hoorah!’ and ‘Wow!’ once more? Next stop, please, Figure humaine.


Roger Nichols