POULENC Gloria. Litanies à la Vierge noire. Stabat Mater
The atmosphere of perfumed ritual in Poulenc’s Gloria finds a ready response in this performance by Parisian forces under Paavo Järvi. The soprano Patricia Petibon brings an extra-terrestrial weightlessness to the ‘Domine Deus, Rex coelestis’ and the ‘Domine Deus, Agnus Dei’. The rhythmic ducking and diving for chorus and orchestra elsewhere in the Gloria is crisply done, and Järvi astutely manipulates Poulenc’s distinctive instrumental timbres while sensitively cosseting his equally characteristic purple harmonies.
Purely as a matter of personal taste, the more austere Litanies à la Vierge noire makes a more striking impact. Here it is performed not with the original organ accompaniment but in Poulenc’s 1947 version for strings and timpani, which at times recalls the textures of the Organ Concerto of 1938. Some of it is unaccompanied, however, or with instrumental colours and timpani strokes only lightly touched in, and Järvi harnesses his female chorus to deeply expressive ends in the music’s aura of supplication, contemplation and reverence.
The archaic feel of the Litanies à la Vierge noire coalesces with Poulenc’s more robust, riper, juicily harmonised style in the Stabat mater. His solemnity and sincerity are to the fore, though, in an interpretation that encapsulates the anguish of the ‘Cuius animam gementem’, the fervour of the ‘Quis est homo’ and the mix of reflective, tearful lyricism and dissonant orchestral jabs in the ‘Vidit suum dulcem natum’, with Petibon soaring movingly above the choral voices. It all makes for a well-planned cross-section of Poulenc’s religious music, admirably performed.