Friday 10 April 2015

The Elora Festival Singers bring exquisite performances of choral works by Poulenc on a new release from Naxos

The Elora Festival Singers are a professional Grammy and Juno nominated chamber choir founded in 1980 by Noel Edison as principal choral ensemble of the Elora Festival. In 1992, the Elora Festival Singers was incorporated as a separate organisation to manage its year round activities. Since 1997, the choir has been the core of the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir and the Toronto Mendelssohn Singers and is the choral ensemble-in-residence of the Elora Festival for four weeks each summer.

Through regular concert series, recordings, broadcasts, and touring, the Elora Festival Singers have established a reputation as one of the finest chamber choirs in Canada and beyond.

This fine choir has already made a number of recordings for Naxos  and now turns its attention to the choral works of Francis Poulenc (1899-1963).


Poulenc’s Sept Chansons (1936) take their texts from Guillaume Apollinaire (1880-1918) and Paul Éluard (1895-1952).

This fine choir brings a lovely atmosphere to La blanche neige (The White Snow) helped very much by the acoustic of St. John’s Church, Elora, Ontario, Canada. There is spot on precision in A peine défigurée (Barely Disfigured), subtly phrased and beautifully nuanced – really lovely.

The male voices open Par une nuit nouvelle (Through a New Night) a rhythmically changing piece with the sopranos bringing lovely dissonances and a very fine blending of textures. Tous les droits (Every Right) shows a fine control of dynamics and tempo with every section of this choir showing their vocal ability. Exquisitely sung with a fine coda.

There is a sensitively controlled Belle et ressemblante (Beautiful and Alike) with a lovely blend of voices before Marie which brings terrific precision combined with the most mellifluous of sounds, finding much feeling in the later stages. How these singers sound out in the opening of Luire (Gleaming) before bringing lovely textures to the subtler, softer music that follows, leading to a very fine coda.

There is some very fine part singing in the Kyrie of the Mass in G Major (1937), beautifully shaped with, later, a very fine soprano leading the upper voices. The Gloria brings some fine control of dynamics and tempi and Poulenc’s strange rhythms with some rich blends from the men’s voices and finding all of Poulenc’s special charm.

There is a nicely done Sanctus with the choir building the textures finely, rising through some lovely sonorities before the coda. The Benedictus is absolutely exquisite with this choir’s pure voiced sopranos bringing a lovely sound over the rest of the choir, the lower voices later adding a lovely richness. They capture Poulenc’s sound world beautifully, rising with fine strength in the coda.

The choir’s very fine soprano voices again sound out in the opening of the Agnus Dei before the rest of the choir join to lead through some most beautiful textures to the lovely coda.

Quatre Motets pour un temps de penitence (1938-39) sets texts from the offices for Holy Week from the Christian calendar. This choir show their strength and fine overall blend of voices in the opening of Timor et tremor venerunt super me, whilst later finding many subtleties and nuances in this very fine motet, as well as some lovely little dissonances. 

They bring a gentle opening to Vinea mea electa before rising in little peaks before a firm coda. Tenebrae factae sunt rises atmospherically from the lower voices as this choir bring much feeling to this darker and troubled motet on the crucifixion, finding so many subtleties. Some quite lovely vocal sounds are heard in Tristis est anima mea before the tempo picks up with further beautiful mellifluous passages as well as little rhythmic moments. Lovely harmonies lead to the coda. What a really fine choir this is.

The first of the motets from Quatre Motets pour le temps de Noël (1952), O magnum mysterium rises full of mystery before the lovely soprano voices come in over the choir, as this most beautiful motet moves forward. They keep a fine poise with beautifully controlled dynamics before a hushed coda. Quem vidistis pastores dicite brings lovely phrasing as various sections of the choir provide some fine moments with fine precision and control.

There is more exquisite control in the motet Videntes stellam where this choir bring such purity of sound in this lovely performance, superbly judged. Finally there is Hodie Christus natus est that has a lively rhythmic bounce, a suitably joyful motet showing many of this choir’s fine qualities.

The Elora Festival Singers are an extremely fine choir who bring us exquisite performances of these lovely works.

They receive a very good recording, though the acoustic of St. John’s Church does blur the clarity of their diction at times. The recorded balance favours the right hand channel a little but not to the detriment of the recorded quality. There are informative notes as well as full texts and English translations.

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