La Maitrise de Toulouse, Mark Opstad - Noel Français

Published Sunday 29th November 2015
La Maitrise de Toulouse, Mark Opstad - Noel Français
La Maitrise de Toulouse, Mark Opstad  - Noel Français

STYLE: Choral
RATING 8 8 8 8 8 8 8 8
LABEL: Regent REGCD470

Reviewed by Steven Whitehead

La Maîtrise de Toulouse, Conservatoire de Toulouse is an outstanding mixed voice children's choir of the Toulouse Conservatoire now with tenor and bass sections. While some of my comments are going to be less than fully appreciative as not all of the programme was to my taste I will not say a word against the quality of the singing which is flawless. We open with a sequence of eight "anciens" French motets by Jean Mouton (c. 1459 - 1522), Guillaume Bouzignac (c. 1587 - 1643), Etienne Moulinie (1599 - 1676), Louis-Nicolas Clerambault (1676 - 1749) and Marc Antoine Charpentier (c. 1645 - 1704). I confess that most of these names are new to me but there were some tunes that I recognised and as a set they sat together very well and feature some excellent soprano solos. We then move into some "Motets Modernes" which is where I struggled. I have previously enjoyed "Salve Regina" and "O Magnum Mysterium" by Francis Poulenc (1899 - 1963) but here they fell flat after the most enjoyable opening. Not literally flat - they were once again well sung - but the contrast between ancient and modern did not work for me. If you want an analogy, it was like Marmite on a chocolate cake: two things I enjoy but not together. Following Poulenc's five motets we meet Jean Roger-Ducasse (1873 - 1954) and Marc Bleuse (born 1937). Like Poulenc I found the works interesting and well sung but too much of a contrast with what had gone before. We conclude with a group of seven traditional noels, six arranged by the choir's director Marc Opstad and with some sung in regional languages. We get, for example, "Birjana Gazterrobat Zegoen" in Basque ("A Virgin Was Praying" since you ask). These worked well for me and recaptured the heights reached in the first part of the disc and the concluding "Quelle est cette odeur agreable?" ("What is the scent so fragrant?") was particularly enjoyable. So there are plenty of plusses and while Poulenc and his contemporaries seem out of step with the remainder of the programme it is still worth hearing.

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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