Francis Poulenc, Choeur et Orchestre National de Lyon, Serge Baudo - Stabat Mater

Published Wednesday 9th August 2017
Francis Poulenc, Choeur et Orchestre National de Lyon, Serge Baudo - Stabat Mater
Francis Poulenc, Choeur et Orchestre National de Lyon, Serge Baudo  - Stabat Mater

STYLE: Choral
RATING 9 9 9 9 9 9 9 9 9
OUR PRODUCT CODE: 166865-25969
LABEL: Musique D'Abord HMA1905149

Reviewed by Steven Whitehead

A word to the wise: the record label Harmonia Mundi's issues are always quality and while they may not be your cup of tea they are always a well-made cup served in the best china. If a Harmonia Mundi release gets transferred to their budget Musique D'Abord label the music stays the same although the packaging is more economical. As with any re-issue the wise collector checks the original release date and makes sure it is not already part of your collection. This recording of Francis Poulenc's heartfelt 'Stabat Mater' was first issued in to critical acclaim in 1985. The choral singing is top quality but what makes it extra special is the performance of soprano Michele Lagrange and even if you already own a different recording - and there are plenty out there - this one is worth hearing. Francis Poulenc (1899-1963) is an interesting composer, at first coming to the fore as a member of Les Six, a circle of French composers that formed around Jean Cocteau and also included Auric, Honegger and Milhaud. Poulenc's earliest works are lightweight but a bereavement made him reassess his life and awoke his lapsed Catholicism. His first religious piece, 'Litanies a la Vierge Noire' ('Litanies to the Black Virgin') is included in this collection and is certainly a foreshadowing of the 'Stabat Mater' in its intense devotion which, I have to say, makes for uncomfortable listening for those of us who do not share in the Roman Catholic cult of Mary. However if we leave aside the dogma and listen to the music it is a remarkable piece with moments that sound almost jazzy through to full blown operatic virtuosity thanks to Mme Lagrange. Indeed from this one work alone we can see why Poulenc is ranked my some as the greatest Catholic composer of the 20th century. Also included on the disc is his 'Salve Regina' but the three together come in at just 42 minutes which, even for a budget issue, is on the short side. However the music is well worth hearing and the performances of choir, orchestra, and soloist are outstanding.

The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.

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