Born in 1926 into a family of musicians, Pierre Villette wrote only some 80 pieces, many of them small-scale works for orchestra, chamber ensembles and choir. His father Henri, a competent composer himself, encouraged his son's passion for music and at the tender age of 6, we find Pierre singing in Rouen Cathedral.
Villette began playing the organ in a local church when still in his early teens and at the age of 15, he passed the entrance exam for the Paris Conservatoire with the help of Duruflé. The War seriously interrupted his studies, but at the end of hostilities in France in 1944 opened the door once again for Villette to re-enter the Conservatoire where he studied composition with Busser. It is truly amazing the composer held only one post in his life, that of Director of the Conservatoire at Aix-en-Provence where he remained until his retirement in 1986. He died in 1998 aged 72.
His style draws a great deal of early music, particularly Gregorian Chant, and his admiration for Poulenc is reflected in the rich and exotic textures and harmonies of these choral pieces. He loved the music of Fauré, Debussy and Stravinsky yet his language is quite unique. Stephen Layton describes it as being both spiritual and sensual, simple band complex, restrained and opulent. Villette's choral pieces owe much of their popularity to British Choirs, the Holst Singers being on the forefront of this crusade. These very approachable works are given sensitive readings full of controlled technical skill and colourful shadings. The strong sense of security and serenity which permeates the singing is indeed a triumph of the utmost professional dedication. A beautiful disc expertly annotated and wonderfully engineered.
Copyright © 2006, Gerald Fenech