Album Review

Posted: Tuesday 11th October 2011
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Pastorale: French Choral Works –

Debussy’s music makes for a special choral experience. It’s fascinating to hear his augmented harmonies and modulating seventh and ninth chords intoned by mixed voices, humanizing what sometimes sounds too beautiful to be of this world. Alas, his Trios Chansons last but a brief six minutes, but this generous disc contains many other choice items from the French choral repertoire. The vocal mastery of Saint-Saëns’ Serenade d’hiver and Hymne au printemps should come as no surprise to anyone familiar with his operas, and the same can be said for Massenet’s Chansons de bois d’Amaranthe. Of special delight is the choral arrangement of Canteloube’s Bailero, with alternating male and female solos. Fauré’s Pavane also is fully fleshed-out, with the added help of the piano. The piano features as well in the Delibes selections, particularly the gently dancing Les Nymphes des bois. Returning to the impressionist style, Ravel’s Trios Chansons create the same magical effects as the identically named Debussy pieces. Under Jeremy Backhouse the Vasari Singers perform with confidence, skill, and musical élan, creating, with the aid of Guild’s natural sounding recording, a wonderfully relaxing and atmospheric interlude.

Victor Carr Jr.