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POULENC & his French Contemporaries
Choir Of New College Oxford/Higginbottom

David Newsholme & Nicholas Wearne organ
Recorded August 2005 L'Abbaye de Saint Michel-en-Thierache, France
AVIE CD AV2084 [70'30]

Francis Poulenc (1899-1963) Olivier Messiaen (1908-1992) & Pierre Villette (1926-1998) are brought together for an auspicious inauguration of a series of three CDs exploring 20th century choral works of different nationalities.

Edward Higginbottom has offered a choice programme of French composers, featuring mainly Poulenc alongside Pierre Villette, whose melodic and beautifully harmonised contributions may point readers to a fine Hyperion CD of his music which Musical Pointers has recommended recently. Villette is seen as one who expanded the promise of Messiaen, who strangely wrote only the one motet O Sacrum Convivium included here.

Poulenc was a complex character - "he's not as religious as he'd like to be" - and his music here reflects this diversity. The Mass, not so well known as it merits, is fresh, vigorous and not troubled with learned counterpoint. For the Litanies to the Black Virgin, the choir is supported by organ, which brings the CD to a satisfying conclusion.

All is well tuned and enthusiastically sung in Thierache, France, and impeccably recorded, with good presentation and background notes.


© Peter Grahame Woolf