Desenclos - Requiem, Motets
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Cat No: DCD34136
Number of Discs: 1
Release Date: 7th April 2014
Litanies a la vierge noire
Attende Domine, op.45
Hymne a la Vierge, op.24
O sacrum convivium, op.27
ArtistsChoir of King’s College London
Winner of the coveted Prix de Rome, Alfred Desenclos remains an almost unknown figure in 20th century music. His contribution to the distinguished French tradition of Requiem Mass settings dates from 1963. Incorporating influences from Gregorian chant as well as rich harmonies based on added-note chords, this piece - with its passionate outpourings - is a revelation.
It forms the centre stone of David Trendell’s programme, which also features music by Villette – who shared Desenclos’ interest in jazz – and Poulenc, whose return to Catholicism in 1936 initiated a line of pieces, beginning with the 'Litanies à la Vierge noire de Rocamadour' that represent some of the most significant religious choral music of the 20th century.
Trendell’s choir is on ravishing form, and the organ at his alma mater, Exeter College, Oxford, partners this music like a velvet glove.
"David Trendell’s fine choir glows with warmth and commitment" - The Observer, May 2012
"Credit to David Trendell for eliciting sustained intensity of expression … youthful timbre imparts a freshness to the interpretation" - BBC Music Magazine, August 2013
The Europadisc Review
This latest disc from the Choir of King's College London on the Delphian label brings together some jewels from the twentieth-century French choral repertoire. The main item is the Messe de Requiem by Alfred Desenclos (1912–1971), a beautiful and passionate work infused with the spirit of Gregorian chant but with evocative harmonies featuring added-note chords and much use of parallel triads. Like the Requiems of Fauré and Duruflé, it exists in versions with orchestra and organ accompaniment, the latter to encourage its liturgical use, and it is the organ version that is heard here, finely recorded in the grateful and warm acoustic of the Chapel of Exeter College, Oxford. The performance by the KCL Choir under David Trendell is wonderfully sensitive to the French style, with a wide dynamic range from the voices, and a youthfully vigorous but wonderfully blended tone. The choir rises effortlessly to the passionate climaxes of the Offertoire, and there are excellent solo contributions from the choir's ranks. Recordings of this work, composed in 1963, are inexplicably rare, and this performance – recorded in its 50th anniversary year – is an excellent way to redress the balance, as well as being an ideal starting point to explore Desenclos's output.
A group of three a cappella motets by Pierre Villette (1926–1998) includes a lovingly sung account of the well-known Hymne à la Vierge, as well as O sacrum convivium, both rich in their harmonic language, but the stand-out work here is the Attende Domine (1983) which sets a Lenten text with music of unsettling power: in his excellent booklet notes, conductor David Trendell hails it as 'one of Villette's finest works', and it certainly makes a stunning impact in this splendidly shaped account.
Two motets by Desenclos, the Salve regina and Nos autem, inhabit the same world of Gregorian allusions as the Requiem, with the added simplicity of being unaccompanied and, like the Villette pieces, they are superbly sung here.
A substantial bonus comes in the form of Poulenc's Litanies à la Vierge noire (1936), scored for women's voices and organ, and inspired by a visit to the shrine of the Virgin at Rocamadour following the sudden accidental death of his colleague Pierre-Octave Ferroud at the age of just thirty-six. This was a turning point for Poulenc, marking his return to the Catholic faith and the religious music of his later years. The Litanies are for the most part spare in style, with an engaging simplicity and arresting emotional directness that contrasts well with the harmonic riches of the other works on this disc.
As a tribute to the great sacred music of the French twentieth-century tradition, it is hard to imagine performances better than these, combining clarity, expressive engagement, passionate involvement and technical excellence. Beautifully recorded and presented, it's a fine all-round success
1Desenclos - Requiem: Introit & Kyrie
2Desenclos - Requiem: Offertoire
3Desenclos - Requiem: Sanctus
4Desenclos - Requiem: Pie Jesu
5Desenclos - Requiem: Agnus Dei & Communion
6Desenclos - Requiem: Libera me, Domine
7Desenclos - Requiem: In paradisum
8Villette - O sacrum convivium
9Villette - Hymne a la Vierge
10Villette - Attende Domine
11Desenclos - Salve regina
12Desenclos - Nos autem
13Poulenc - Litanies a la Vierge noire
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