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Poulenc: Mass in G major; Motets CD

Price: £8.76 & FREE Delivery in the UK on orders over £20. Details
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 10 reviews
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Wish there was more. 31 Mar. 2002
By D. Seymour - Published on
Format: Audio CD
Poulenc's mass in G is the highlight of this all a cappella disc. At about 18-1/2 minutes total, it is just too short - you want it to continue forever. It's texture is rich and exquisitely executed by Shaw and his forces. Poulenc's sophistication blends the deeply sacred texts with 20th century harmonies that evoke ancient mysticism. The "Osanna in excelsis" used in both the Sanctus & Benedictus is a passage of unbelievably straining rapture, as if one would experience aching pleasure in the presence of the divine. Poulenc's music is ethereal, effortless, masterful and timeless. The other motets and prayers included on this disc are excellent also, especially the Hodie Christus natus est and Vinea mea electa. The sound quality on this recording is excellent and the gothic cathedral, stained glass and swirls of incense come right along with it.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Spiritual music 18 Nov. 2005
By Harvey - Published on
Format: Audio CD
This CD comprises a great quantity of a cappella sacred music by the French composer Francis Poulenc. Poulenc's compositional style is hard to nail down. It is often tongue in cheek, sometimes portraying the French compositional school, sometimes greatly dissonant, sometimes intimate, other times outlandish. This disk has many of these features, but it almost seems neo-Medieval/Renaissance in presentation, but highly 20th century in harmonic language. The voice parts are extremely difficult to perform and to put together, but in the end as a listener, the music doesn't let on. The music is presented as highly spiritual through thick chords and advanced harmonies with odd clashes of dissonance on appropriate texts. Melodies are flowing, often recalling snatches of chant.

The two sets of motets, four for Christmas and four for Lent, are highly introspective and personal. The famous Timor et Tremor and O magnum mysterium are evocative of the Poulencian style, but all the same, bring to mind Palestrina. The Lenten motets give a sense of great penitence and reflection on the last days of Jesus. The Christmas motets, while still subdued, are ones more of hope and longing. Poulenc's great mastery of melody is especially noticeable in the setting of Vinea mea, making the listener want the music to never stop. The Mass in G major is the traditional mass setting minus the Credo movement. The greatest changes of tempo and mood take place here. The quicker Gloria and Sanctus show Poulenc's genius at contrasting styles, textures, and complex rhythms along with constantly shifting harmonies.

The real treasures on the disk are the four prayers of St. Francis of Assise for men's chorus. Very much reminiscent of monk's chanting, Poulenc's penchant for creative and flowing melodies is exemplified here. The subtle shifts of harmonies create a spiritual kaleidoscope of choral colors. Truly remarkable compositions.

The Robert Shaw Festival Singers perform well. The men in the prayers are nearly flawless. There is someone in the soprano 1 section that sticks out of the texture and is a bit piercing in timbre, but overall the performances shimmer. There are few recordings that can stand up to this choir, of American choirs at least, but certainly none can surpass the moments that Robert Shaw creates. If you enjoy the strains of cathedral choirs or if you are unfamiliar with these works, this might be an interesting choice for you.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Beautiful balance and blend 14 Nov. 2003
By E. Seligmann - Published on
Format: Audio CD
My initial response is simply, "Ooooo....Ahhhhh..." The Festival Singers' voices are perfectly balanced and well blended and therefore effectively communicate the sacred reverence of Poulenc's writing while emphasizing the beautiful harmonies of his music. I think the echo of the church is just enough to help the listener feel he/she is present, but not so much as to muddle the music. It's actually very accurate for a European cathedral choral sound. As a choir singer, I have a special appreciation for their attention to detail and perfectly tuned chords making very challenging 20th century music sound deceptively simple without sacrificing any of the emotional attributes of the pieces.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
50 stars are Inadequate for this Robert Shaw jewel of gems! 12 Mar. 2005
By Fred W Hood - Published on
Format: Audio CD
Upon my zillion times of hearing Sir Robert's recording of such spell-binding "vison of beauty" in Poulence's Mass in G, I'm in Awe of Shaw's getting closer and closer to heavenly music! Now he is "Over-there with his beloved Caroline hearing his Angelic Choir zinging-in for Poulenc, Bach, Brahms, Mozart, Verdi, etc!

I remember his sight-reading session one summer at Westminister Choir College, we sang portions of this Mass in G! We never got to the Agnus Dei, but each Atlanta Symphony Concert or Spivey Hall evening with his Festival Singers he used Donna Carter as one of his favorite Sopranos.

From a long experience of hearing his recordings & rehearsals, I still hear his forceful voice directed with either wee scorn or praise to those "darned Sopranos!" Westminster one summer, when we had distinguished choral Visitors in the balcony it came out as "You Damned Sopranos!" With no apology! No Conductor of our devoted generation had as much fervor or passion in rehearsals!

If I could have heard his rehearsals of Mass in G, the gorgeous Motets of Poulenc, plus the Prayers of St Francis, I may have sustained the composer's words of "the Christian soul who is confident of a life after death!" Soon after the loss of his Caroline, I asked him how he was surviving? His smiling reply came, "She misses me..." Retired Chap Fred W Hood
8 of 11 people found the following review helpful
I would have preferred a closer micing 13 Dec. 2000
By D. A. Hosek - Published on
Format: Audio CD
I love Poulenc. Especially the motet O Magnum Mysterium which one choir I sing in (at Holy Name Cathedral) is performing. The director Matt Walsh recommended the Robert Shaw Festival Singers recordings of the motet so I picked this one up: And the performance is excellent, but because it's recorded with the mic some distance from the singers, you really almost hear more of the church than the choir. Some of the really beautiful harmonies are less than clear with all the reverb, including the great chord progression at the beginning of O Magnum Mysterium. Maybe it's just because I'm used to hearing it from within the choir, but I really would much prefer a close micing recording of these pieces over the version which appears here.
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