Poulenc

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Poulenc
LABELS: Naxos
WORKS: Sept Chansons; Mass in G; Motets for Lent; Motets for Christmas
PERFORMER: Elora Festival Singers/Noel Edison
CATALOGUE NO: 8.572978

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On a technical level it’s hard to fault these performances. The abrupt attacks and sudden diminuendos of ‘Tous les droits’ from Sept Chansons are done with impressive unanimity, while in ‘Marie’ from the same cycle the sopranos negotiate their skipping staccato rhythms with grace and nimbleness. Noel Edison’s direction is arguably a touch metrical: some of the more lyrical phrases could be caressed more affectionately.

The silvery quality of the Elora Festival Singers sopranos is brightly to the fore in the Kyrie of the Mass, their vibrato-free production facilitating a vernal tonal quality, which suits the music well. Again in the Gloria one notes a certain preoccupation with technical cleanliness, and a precise measurement of dynamics – as singing pure and simple it’s very impressive, but the end result can seem impersonal.

While it’s arguable that the angular writing of the Mass can take this kind of objective, clipped approach, the four penitential motets require more flexibility of expression, and in Edison’s pliant phrasing of the searchingly intertwining part-writing of Vinea mea electa they get it. The choir’s ability to maintain tuning and tonal fullness when singing quietly is crucial in this movement, and pleasingly evident. The closing Christmas motets receive the disc’s warmest performances, precision serving expressivity, where elsewhere it occasionally dominates.

The relatively tight acoustic emphasises the well-tooled precision of the Elora singing, though a certain steeliness results in the loudest passages. Still, this is an excellent package at the price.

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Terry Blain