The wide appeal of the a cappella choral writing of French composers such as Poulenc, de Séverac and Messiaen owes as much to their use of austere textures and disciplined techniques as for the refined, Gallic sensuousness which appeals so directly to the heart. The stark, plainly homophonic style of Brumel is the timeless partner of Poulenc’s restrained choral miniatures but the ground-breaking developments in part-writing by Pérotin are the perfect preparation for Poulenc’s taxing Figure Humaine many centuries later, a work which set higher expectations of choral singing than had been envisaged in the choral world. As much as the function of the writing in these programmes is a reflection of the architecture of the buildings it was conceived for, there is a thread which connects the spirit of the music – in the ecclesiastical repertoire it is an essence of understanding of prayer through singing, whether in lamentation or in praise and, in the secular, an expression of mankind’s ability to triumph over the greatest of adversity.
Pérotin Viderunt Omnes
Brumel Lamentations of Jeremiah
Poulenc Quatre motets pour un temps de pénitence
Messiaen O sacrum convivium
Poulenc Salve Regina
Duruflé Quatre motets sur des thèmes grégoriens
Poulenc Figure Humaine