To issue a CD of Poulenc’s most important choral work is to make a huge statement, and to take something of a risk. Why does one do it? Aren’t there enough recordings already?
Having said that, in my case it’s simply dire necessity. This work is so beautiful, so impressive, and so important to the canon of twentieth-century choral music, that I cannot resist having a say of my own. I do believe that Poulenc´s 12-part Figure humaine is the most beautiful and impressive a cappella choral work that I know. The poet Eluard and composer Poulenc formed a perfect match. Eluard’s poignant and sinister surrealistic texts are very moving, and their wonderfully expressive language depicts the horrors of the Second World War. It is without doubt a harrowing work, with a pièce de résistance to end: the eighth and final movement Liberté. In the most beautiful words, it expresses the omnipresent urge for liberty. Poulenc’s setting is simply wonderful, with a gigantic buildup to the concluding, ultimate cry of LIBERTÉ!
It is a great joy to perform this sort of music with my Swedish Radio Choir. The ensemble is a very strong group, and most eager to stretch its boundaries. The strength of the group is not merely the sum of its individual qualities. At the moment when these qualities merge into one, the group develops still further, and the ensemble attains a higher elevation. However important blending of the sound may be, it may not be at the expense of individual colour and personality. Choirs are frequently recorded from a considerable distance, perhaps to improve the blend. I often find the resulting sound to be distant, and detrimental to the clarity of the text. The recording technique of Channel Classics seeks to establish a synthesis, combining directness and clarity with spatial effect. This is exactly my own approach to choral timbre: the choir must achieve the greatest unity and blend, but also allow space for individual colour. It is at such moments that the listener feels personally involved, and the music gains a human aspect. I am convinced that this is the sound Poulenc had in mind when he wrote Figure humaine.
Total time: 01:01:28
van den Hul
Grimm DSD A/D converter
B+W 803 diamond series
Bruel & Kjaer, Schoeps
Rens Heijnis custom made
|Original Recording Format|
Hein Dekker, Jared Sacks
|Recording Type & Bit Rate|
|Release Date||January 26, 2014|
Der Chor gibt die jeweiligen Stimmungen der Sätze oder Passagen angemessen wieder: tänzerisch in ‘Marie’ (‘Sept Chansons’), nachdenklich in ‘De grandes cuillers de neige’ (‘Un soir de neige’) oder hämisch in ‘Riant du ciel et des planètes’ (‘Figure humaine’). Die Intonation ist makellos, der Chorklang angenehm weich und harmonisch, die Phrasierungen stimmig und rund.
De opname is van bekende Channel-Classics-klasse, de uitvoerenden (..) van wereldniveau onder leiding van Peter Dijkstra. (…) Nogmaals hulde!
Onder leiding van de jonge, talentvolle Nederlandse chef-dirigent Peter Dijkstra zingt het Zweeds Radio Koor vier ronduit schitterende koorwerken van Poulenc. Tegelijkertijd laat het horen waarom het geldt als één van de beste kamerkoren ter wereld. (…) Meesterwerken.
De opname is op het eerste gehoor confronterend direct. Maar het komt de zeggingskracht van de muziek ten goede. De Zweedse zangers leveren ongelooflijk knap gezongen uitvoeringen, waarin de harmonische ontwikkelingen zo zijn gedrapeerd en gestapeld dat er fantastische sonoriteiten ontstaan, die soms zelfs grenzen aan rauwe, bijna uitgekreten spreekkoren. (…) een hartstochtelijke ode aan de vrijheid.
De Nederlandse koordirigent Peter Dijkstra kneedt het Swedish Radio Choir tot topprestaties (…). De opname is heel direct, maar dat maakt het alleen maar spannender (…)
The ethereal solo contributions of soprano Jessica Bäcklund and alto Christiane Höjlund in the ‘Agnus Dei’ deserve special mention. (…) Channel Classic’s superb DSD recording made in the Musikaliska, Stockholm presents the choir in a spacious acoustic that accommodates the huge dynamic range of the singing without strain. (…) This challenging, but rewarding disc is confidently recommended.
Performance ***** Sonics*****
The Mass, performed with unusual power as well as the expected gentle lucidity, gives this CD an arresting start (…) To have all four works you can confidently choose this new release.
Ribbons of joy fly brightly through the Gloria and Sanctus of the Mass from 1937. (…) Peter Dijkstra keeps the music moving and flowing (…)
The 35-voice choir makes a suitably full-bodied sound, yet keeps the individual lines clean and clear and the textures rich and vibrant, confirming once again the reasons that make us not only so happy to listen but that also make us want to sing. Channel Classics’ Jared Sacks has been recording choirs for a long time–and as one of the first to fully appreciate, understand, and utilize the potential of digital recording, he consistently produces demonstration-quality recordings that present the performers in an acoustic setting that’s most favorable to their art and to their music. This is no exception–and although there are many alternatives in the CD catalog–from Accentus, The Sixteen, The Netherlands Chamber Choir, to name a few–they lack just that slight, vibrant edge and exuberance characterized in these performances, which should find a place in every choral music lover’s library. Highly recommended.
International Record Review
This is a first-rate disc of some of Poulenc’s finest music. (…) The radiance and resonance of the singing is altogether exceptional and Dijkstra’s conducting moulds the music lovingly but never indulgently. (…) it’s great to hear Poulenc’s tricky choral writing rendered with such control and beauty of tone. (…)
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