This latest CD by a crack French professional chamber choir seems to be climbing upon a bandwagon – fifty minutes of uninterrupted slow music as therapy for people who lead busy, hectic lives. We need, we're told, soothing slow music to counter 'stress'. There is a lot of special pleading in the accompanying notes; transcriptions of string quartet (Barber's Adagio) and Mahler's Adagietto for bowed and plucked strings (the harp) is OK because voices too vibrate strings, vocal chords – ! I found it frankly embarrassing. Chopin in this guise, with strings oscillated by breath instead of hammers, is practically unrecognisable.
But there are good things, and classical disc jockeys on radio should certainly feature them. I've always felt that the piano accompaniment of Das verlassene Mägdlein lacks sostenuto and is hard to bring off; the Wolf transcriptions are very successful. So are those of Ravel and Berg, which bring in some of Ligeti's special techniques to good effect.
It is a question of taste, and there is no criticism of the expertise of this splendid professional choir of some thirty singers, nor of the recording. All the words are provided, with translations, and pleasing photos.
Naïve Classique is the classical section of an enterprising Paris-based record company, the Naïve website well worth exploring, and this populist offering may help to balance the books against more esoteric releases, such as their excellent Dusapin disc. Of those I've heard and reviewed before, best is perhaps that devoted to Poulenc – Figure humaine V4883.
Copyright © 2003, Peter Grahame Woolf