Poulenc, Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir, Daniel Reuss - Stabat Mater

Published Sunday 23rd March 2014
Poulenc, Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir, Daniel Reuss - Stabat Mater
Poulenc, Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir, Daniel Reuss  - Stabat Mater

STYLE: Choral
RATING 8 8 8 8 8 8 8 8
LABEL: Harmonia Mundi HMC902149

Reviewed by Steven Whitehead

The fact that Francis Poulenc's 'Stabat Mater' has been recorded so many times alerts us to the fact that it is worth hearing. Which version to buy depends on several factors. Ignoring budget I would suggest that the performance should be considered and as the 'Stabat Mater' comes in at under 40 minutes I would expect to have it coupled with something else. This latest recording ticks both boxes. The musicianship of the Cappella Amsterdam, the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir and the Estonian National Symphony Orchestra is exemplary and we applaud the conductor Daniel Reuss for keeping everyone in order. However we reserve our highest praise for the soprano Carolyn Sampson who soars up and over the music like an ascending angel, giving us a stellar performance. Francis Poulenc was born in 1899 and later rediscovered his Catholic faith and wrote his 'Stabat Mater', which he described as a "requiem without despair", in 1950 following the death of Christian Bérard who designed the sets for Cocteau's films and plays and was a leading figure of 1940's Paris. On completing it, Poulenc wrote to Pierre Bernac: "It's good, because it's completely authentic." The other piece on this CD is by no means filler. In December 1959 Leonard Bernstein commissioned a new work from Poulenc for the New York Philharmonic Orchestra. He chose to write the "Sept Répons des Ténèbres" ("Seven Tenebrae Responses") for treble soloist, a chorus of boys' and men's voices and symphony orchestra. The posthumous first performance took place on 11th April 1963, three months after Poulenc's death. The composer had insisted on these all-male vocal forces, but now, 50 years after his death, perhaps it is time to ignore his wishes. Again Miss Sampson gives a splendid performance although it is the 'Stabat Mater' that Poulenc will be remembered for.

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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