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OU 6906
POULENC, F.: Choral Music (Half Monk, Half Rascal) (Danish National Vocal Ensemble, Layton)

POULENC, F.: Choral Music (Half Monk, Half Rascal) (Danish National Vocal Ensemble, Layton)

The Classical Shop
release date: February 2013

Originally recorded in 2012


Layton, Stephen

Stephen Layton


Danish National Vocal Ensemble


Garnison's Church, Copenhagen, Denmark

Record Label
Our Recordings




Total Time - 55:57
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POULENC, F.: Choral Music (Half Monk, Half Rascal) (Danish National Vocal Ensemble, Layton)

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7 Chansons, FP 81

1 No. 1. La blanche neige (The White Snow) 1:07


2 No. 2. A peine defiguree (Hardly disfigured) 1:32


3 No. 3. Par une nuit nouvelle (A new night) 1:15


4 No. 4. Tous les droits (Every right) 2:30


5 No. 5. Belle et ressemblante (Beautiful and lifelike) 1:49


6 No. 6. Marie (Marie) 1:55


7 No. 7. Luire (Gleaming) 1:53



4 Petites prieres de Saint Francois d'Assise, FP 142

8 No. 1. Salut, Dame Sainte (Modere, mais sans lenteur) 2:14
9 No. 2. Tout puissant, tres saint (Majestueux et eclatant) 1:19
10 No. 3. Seigneur, je vous en prie (Tres expressif et fervent) 1:18


11 No. 4. O mes tres chers freres (Bien calme) 2:00

Ave verum corpus, FP 154


Un soir de neige, FP 126

13 No. 1. De grandes cuillers de neige 1:10


14 No. 2. La bonne neige 1:30
15 No. 3. Bois meurtri 2:04


16 No. 4. La nuit le froid la solitude 1:00

Laudes de Saint Antoine de Padoue, FP 172

17 I. O Jesu 2:23
18 II. O proles 0:53
19 III. Laus Regi 2:29
20 IV. Si quaeris 2:12

Chansons francaises, FP 130

21 No. 1. Margoton va t'a l'iau 2:11
22 No. 2. La belle se sied au pied de la tour 1:36
23 No. 3. Pilons l'orge 0:47
24 No. 4. Clic, clac, dansez sabots 2:19
25 No. 5. C'est la petit' fill' du prince 4:34
26 No. 6. La belle si nous etions 1:11
27 No. 7. Ah! mon beau laboureur 2:55
28 No. 8. Les tisserands 1:46

Chanson a boire, FP 31

 Stephen Layton Conductor
 Layton, Stephen

OUR Recordings is proud to announce the release of this great choir music by Francis Poulenc, which is standard repertoire for all professional choirs. On this release Stephen Layton and the Danish National Vocal Ensemble, put together a program representing both Poulenc`s secular and sacred choral music.
This album is launched in connection to the much praised release of The Nightingale: “New Nordic Music for Recorder and Choir” (2011) with Michala Petri and Danish National Vocal Ensemble. One further album is planned for next year. 
Poulenc was a man of contradictions. The traditionalists called him a modernist, the modernists called him old-fashioned. The contradictions were almost glaring: a declared homosexual and devout Catholic in the first half of the twentieth century! Courageous? Indeed!
He wrote modern music but couldn’t help creating melodies. That was to be both his good fortune and his misfortune. He knew so much about instruments and voices, and his music sounded so good that it could be regarded as poppish, and many people were loath to admit him to the serious musical world of Europe. Some snobs spoke of “French elegance”
“Gallic esprit” or – even worse – “perfumed music”, and this was not meant as praise. 
Poulenc died in 1963. The rascal was there until the end: “Even though you may think the music is in bad taste, you must play your heart out all the same. I am quite aware of what I can do. And pianists must remember that you can never use too much pedal!”. 
“A critic said that there is both a monk and a street urchin in me. That is an accurate description of my personality.” Poulenc was the first to admit the contradictions inherent in his music and character. A devout Catholic, he was openly gay, and his music can miraculously reconcile the deeply personal with the cheekily flippant. Close your ears to Poulenc and you’re missing out on some of the 20th century’s most alluring music. Listening repeatedly to this sharply performed a cappella choral collection is fascinating. It’s easy to dismiss Poulenc as a Tatiesque clown, but the rawer sonorities serve to highlight just how sophisticated a composer he was. It’s all in the harmonies and chord progressions – often breaking every rule but invariably sounding wonderful. This is music which can make life feel worth living. Stephen Layton’s Danish choir give exemplary performances. At times there’s a welcome edge to the sound, a toughness, coupled with superb control – the major/minor shifts in La blanche neige are superbly done, as is the abrupt fade out at the song’s close. There’s a rare chance to hear two religious works for male voices, but the real masterpiece is Un soir de neige, a wartime setting of poetry by Paul Éluard. The opening of Bois meutri is chilling. And while you’re still marvelling at Poulenc’s eloquence in serious mode, move on to the exuberant collection of Chansons Françaises, and the tiny Chanson à boire composed for a Harvard Glee Club. It has a killer ending. Fabulous, in other words."
The Arts Desk - 20 May 2012

"The old rouge would have kissed them all, the men twice over. Poulenc may have created am impression of easygoing hedonism, and he certainly took an unusual angel on sacred music (monks playing football,indeed!) but his music demands precision and care even at its most rapturous, and there is plenty of rapture as well as wit in this intelligent selected programme. Layton gets a lovely, excact sound out of DNVE,heightened by a superb recording. Predictably, the religious songs are sensual, and the secular ones seem to reach for trancendence. That`s Poulenc, who was all genius." 4 out of 5 star review
Brian Morton - Choir and Organ magazine -  May/June 2012

"... this is a one-disc Poulenc compendium to Poulencophile should be without."
Marc Rochester - Gramophone magazine - June 2012

“Half Monk-Half Rascal” they called him. Poulenc`s deep religious conviction shining through just as clearly in some works as his irreverent sense of humour did in others. Layton deftly contrasts both worlds on this disc and response of his Danish singers in works including the Sept chansons and Chansons francaises is both idiomatic and precisely-judged. A lovely record." *****
Guy Weatherall - Classical Music Magazine - June 2012

5 out of 5 stars!
"No one is pretending Poulenc`s melodies and instrumental music are without their performing problems. But, rather curiously, he left many of his most fearsome challenges for his choral music: in phrasing, balance, articulation, register and, above all, tuning. For every piece that sits comfortable in a modal armchair, there`s another that stuns with chromatic leaps and bounds – and often the two styles interlock. So one approaches every new recording of this repertoire with slight trepidation. Twenty seconds is usually enough. As it was here. After which all I could say was “Hoorah!” And I went on saying it, interspersed every now and again with “Wow!” (initially the soprano top B on track 4). I see I`m now less than a half way through the review, and I suppose if I just went on writing “Hoorah!” and “Wow!” my editor might have to reduce my fee, which of course could be a serious matter. But really my only cavil is over a few errors in the printed French and Latin texts.Of the performances, I have to say this is some of the most beautiful and moving choral singing I have ever heard. I suppose you could query the performance of the secular items in a resonant church. But it dosen`t worry me, given the spirit and energy of the singing. Words too are crystal clear, with excellent French. Am I allowed to say “Hoorah!” And “Wow!” once more? Next stop,- please, “Figure humaine.” 
Roger Nichols - BBC Music Magazine - June 2012

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