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Figure Humaine

Figure Humaine

Francis Poulenc is now considered to be among the most important composers of choral music of the 20th Century. Yet his early career reveals no trace of the dazzling and idiosyncratic unaccompanied choral textures so abundantly produced in the second half of his life.

This collection of Poulenc’s choral works is centered on his masterpiece, Figure Humaine. Even though it is only 20 minutes in length, the work is a supreme test of stamina, technical agility, range, aural skill and musicianship. The professional chamber choir Tenebrae is more than capable of tackling this repertoire, and this disc promises to provide a new benchmark in interpretations of the work.

For purity and precision of tone, and flawless intonation, Nigel Short’s chamber choir Tenebrae is pretty much unbeatable.

–  The Times
  • Release Date: 24 May 2010
  • Record Label: Signum Classics
  • Catalogue Number: SIGCD197
  • Location of Recording: St Bartholomew-the-Great, West Smithfield, London
  • Total Running Time: 01:03:32
  • View/Download Liner Notes

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Individual Tracks

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Buy # Title Composer Duration Price Listen
1Mass in G: KyrieFrancis Poulenc03:25£ Listen
2Mass in G: GloriaFrancis Poulenc04:08£ Listen
3Mass in G: SanctusFrancis Poulenc02:26£ Listen
4Mass in G: BenedictusFrancis Poulenc03:46£ Listen
5Mass in G: Agnus DeiFrancis Poulenc04:55£ Listen
6Litanies á la Vierge NoireFrancis Poulenc08:18£ Listen
7Salve ReginaFrancis Poulenc04:23£ Listen
8Un Soir de Neige: De grandes cuillers de neigeFrancis Poulenc01:09£ Listen
9Un Soir de Neige: La bonne neige le ciel noirFrancis Poulenc01:37£ Listen
10Un Soir de Neide: Bois meutriFrancis Poulenc02:11£ Listen
11Un Soir de Neige: La nuit le froid la solitudeFrancis Poulenc01:05£ Listen
12Figure Humaine: BientôtFrancis Poulenc02:44£ Listen
13Figure Humaine: Le Rôle des FemmesFrancis Poulenc02:05£ Listen
14Figure Humaine: Aussi bas que le silenceFrancis Poulenc01:33£ Listen
15Figure Humaine: PatienceFrancis Poulenc01:57£ Listen
16Figure Humaine: Premiere Marche la voix d'un autreFrancis Poulenc01:00£ Listen
17Figure Humaine: Un LoupFrancis Poulenc01:41£ Listen
18Figure Humaine: Un feu sans tacheFrancis Poulenc03:49£ Listen
19Figure Humaine: LibertéFrancis Poulenc04:29£ Listen
20Quatre petites prières de Saint François d’Assise: Salut, Dame SainteFrancis Poulenc02:10£ Listen
21Quatre petites prières de Saint François d’Assise: Tout PuissantFrancis Poulenc01:44£ Listen
22Quatre petites prières de Saint François d’Assise: Seigneur, je vous en prieFrancis Poulenc01:21£ Listen
23Quatre petites prières de Saint François d’Assise: O mes très chers frèresFrancis Poulenc01:55£ Listen

For purity and precision of tone, and flawless intonation, Nigel Short’s chamber choir Tenebrae is pretty much unbeatable.

–  The Times

… they seem to have an extra gear, a kind of choral over-drive that allows them to soar almost serenely over corners that have some of the finest vocal ensembles showing the strain.

–  BBC Radio 3, CD Review

… all marvellous. It’s hard to imagine them being done better: Tenebrae’s tone, balance and intonation are superb.

–  Classic FM

The awards jury says … Poulenc’s Figure Humaine makes extreme demands on ensemble and intonation, as plenty of commercial recordings can prove. Nigel Short’s Tenebrae is astonishing, and instead of being diverted by the musical struggle, you’re free to focus on Eluard’s texts. The sense of liberation at the end is no less powerfully expressed, and as a showcase for Poulenc’s choral writing, I’m finding it hard to imagine this recital being bettered.


–  BBC Music Magazine

With considerable expertise Nigel Short directs the impeccably prepared choir in beautiful accounts. They have the added advantage of crystal clear and superbly balanced sound.

–  Michael Cookson

Tenebrae is equal to every challenge. The tuning is impeccable, the phrasing intelligent and never forced, the balance always adjusted to the demands of Poulenc’s textures, which are frequently not as straightforward as they look on the page. Not least, the sopranos float ethereally in the more lyrical moments…The demanding top E at the end of Figure Humaine crowns the work as it should.

–  Roger Nichols

… I think this is near perfection for me

–  Hilary Finch

Beautiful, sustained, controlled singing – a marvellous CD

–  Rob Cowan

It’s a fabulous disc, I can’t stop listening to it at the moment; it’s practically cemented itself to my CD player – it’s beautiful

–  Jeremy Summerly, BBC Radio 3 Critics Choice 2010

An absolute tour de force from the British chamber choir Tenebrae here, singing in idiomatic French and with absolute technical assurance, even in the face of the fearsome challenges presented by the centrepiece, Figure Humaine (top E for the sopranos and all!).

–  Presto Classical

Their singing has a precision of pitch, a rhythmic vigour and a musical focus few choirs can equal…Nigel Short, similarly, has studied these scores to the extent that he realises every tiny nuance of Poulenc’s writing and produces that kind of performance that offers an almost transparent level of textural precision.

–  Gramophone Magazine

pristine performances

–  The Financial Times

Poulenc had vocal expertise in mind when he wrote his choral music, and that is what he gets in this fine selection… all performed with colour and skill by Tenebrae

–  The Daily Telegraph

an impeccable disc

–  The Observer

BBC Music Magazine Choral & Song Choice (2010)

BBC Radio 3 Critics’ Disc of the Year (2010)

BBC Music Magazine Awards, Choral Finalist (2011)

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