52,943 reviews
and more.. and still writing ...

Search MusicWeb Here



International mailing

  Founder: Len Mullenger             Editor in Chief: John Quinn               Contact Seen and Heard here  

Some items
to consider


paid for

Chopin Edition 17CDs
now available separately
£11 post-free anywhere


100th birthday of Mieczyslaw Weinberg on December 8, 2019.
Renate Eggbrecht has recorded all 3 violin Sonatas

Mozart Brahms
Clarinet Quintets


New Releases

Naxos Classical

Click to see New Releases
Get 10% off using code musicweb10

Nimbus Podcast

Obtain 10% discount

Special offer 50% off
15CDs £83 incl. postage

Musicweb sells the following labels

Altus 10% off
Atoll 10% off
CRD 10% off
Hallé 10% off
Lyrita 10% off
Nimbus 10% off
Nimbus Alliance
Prima voce 10% off
Red Priest 10% off
Retrospective 10% off
Saydisc 10% off
Sterling 10% off

Follow us on Twitter

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing

Sample: See what you will get

Editorial Board
MusicWeb International
Founding Editor
Rob Barnett
Editor in Chief
John Quinn
Seen & Heard
Editor Emeritus
   Bill Kenny
MusicWeb Webmaster
   David Barker
Jonathan Woolf
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger



Advertising on

Donate and keep us afloat



Recordings of the Month


Symphonies 1, 2, 3



Aho Symphony 5

Dowland - A Fancy


Rachmaninov_ Babayan


Opera transcriptions & fantasias


Mozart Brahms
Clarinet Quintets

Schubert Symphony 9



CD: MDT AmazonUK AmazonUS
Sound Samples & Downloads

Francis POULENC (1899-1963)
Half Monk/Half Rascal
Sept Chansons (1936) [11:52]
Quatre petites prières de Saint François d’Assise (1948) [6:51]
Ave verum corpus (1952) [2:19]
Un soir de neige (1944) [5:44]
Laudes de Saint Antoine de Padoue (1959) [7:57]
Chansons françaises (1945-46) [18:19]
Chanson à boire (1922) [3:46]
Danish National Vocal Ensemble/Stephen Layton
rec. 25-28 August 2008 and 20-21 August 2009, Garrison’s Church, Copenhagen
texts and English translations provided
OUR RECORDINGS 8.226906 [56:13]

Experience Classicsonline

It was the critic Claude Rostand, in 1950, who first adopted the phrase “moine ou voyou” to describe Francis Poulenc. It is translated here as “Half Monk/Half Rascal”, and though “moine” is certainly a monk, a “voyou” could easily be a more unsavoury character than a “rascal”. Rostand wanted to draw attention to the polarity between Poulenc’s devout Catholic faith and other aspects of his character. The epithet has stuck, but we really shouldn’t make too much of it. I don’t think that Poulenc had any more of a dual personality than many another composer; nor, indeed, than you or I. And though it is quite a pretty selling point, you can enjoy the sacred and secular music on this superb disc without giving either the monk or the rascal a second thought.
It really is a superb disc, one of the finest collections of unaccompanied Poulenc choral music I have heard. The programme keeps the sexes - or at least the voices - apart for much of the time. The Quatre petites prières, for men’s voices, of which the longest is only a touch more than two minutes, are perfect examples of Poulenc’s melodic skill. The third, in particular, with its rather convoluted text, is so ravishing that the Lord could scarcely fail to hear the depth of feeling behind the words and notes. It is beautifully sung here; the quiet singing is perfect, but one might argue that Layton gives his singers a little too much head in the louder passages of so short and slight a work. Intonation is absolutely impeccable, and the vocal blend is perfect. The words, too, are very clear, with only the odd vowel, especially at the end of words such as “puisque” or “l’éternité”, betraying the fact that these are not native French speakers. The Laudes de Saint Antoine, also for men’s voices, inhabits a more austere world, as befits perhaps the Latin texts and the rather more robust messages contained therein. Previous comments about the singing hold good here, and indeed throughout the collection, with only what sounds like a slightly hesitant entry shortly before the end of the first piece. The one remaining sacred work is the exquisite Ave verum corpus, for women’s voices, and exquisitely sung.
Poulenc’s secular choral music tends to be harder going, perhaps as much to do with his chosen texts as anything musical. Paul Eluard was a favourite author, Guillaume Apollinaire another: even in translation it’s not always easy to know what they were driving at. Even so, the composer’s response is always striking and apposite, even when it surprises us. The performance of the Sept Chansons is sensational. Virtuosity is much in evidence in the rather uncompromising third song, as it also is in the sixth, though does the accompanying “la-la-la” figuration not need to be a little louder than it is here? Listen the superb skill with which the different layers of the choral texture are managed in the fourth song, particularly near the beginning. We are also treated to some gorgeous solo singing in this song, as well as in the fifth, where the pianissimo are magical.
Un soir de neige - strange to see its title so prosaically translated in the booklet as “A snowy evening” - is ostensibly a series of four miniature winter scenes, but the words are again by Eluard, and all kinds of other ideas creep in to accompany the bitter cold: war, life, death, freedom. The whole piece is over in less that eight minutes, but it certainly packs a punch. The first song opens with some remarkable unison singing from the sopranos, and the rest of the performance maintains this standard. It chills to the bone, as it should. (Incidentally, is Poulenc monk or rascal in this piece? Answer: neither.)
The eight pieces that make up the Chansons françaises are perhaps a bit of an acquired taste. They are folk song arrangements, often quite free, and in general inhabit quite a different world from choral folk song arrangements by Holst, Moeran or Vaughan Williams. They are very inventive, with a wide range of choral texture, but one or two of them do have a verse or three too many. There is no denying, however, the ravishing beauty of La belle se sied au pied de la tour, or the fizzing energy of Les tisserands. The disc closes with Chanson à boire - Drinking Song - composed in 1922 for the Harvard Glee Club, which is the closest you’ll get to rascality on this disc.
All this is beautifully recorded. The booklet contains an essay in English and French, introducing the composer and the programme in very general terms. The texts are provided, but in French first, then, on later pages, the English translations.
William Hedley 























































































































Making a Donation to MusicWeb

Writing CD reviews for MWI

About MWI
Who we are, where we have come from and how we do it.

Site Map

How to find a review

How to find articles on MusicWeb
Listed in date order

Review Indexes
   By Label
      Select a label and all reviews are listed in Catalogue order
   By Masterwork
            Links from composer names (eg Sibelius) are to resource pages with links to the review indexes for the individual works as well as other resources.

Themed Review pages

Jazz reviews


      Composer surveys
      Unique to MusicWeb -
a comprehensive listing of all LP and CD recordings of given works
Prepared by Michael Herman

The Collector’s Guide to Gramophone Company Record Labels 1898 - 1925
Howard Friedman

Book Reviews

Complete Books
We have a number of out of print complete books on-line

With Composers, Conductors, Singers, Instumentalists and others
Includes those on the Seen and Heard site


Nostalgia CD reviews

Records Of The Year
Each reviewer is given the opportunity to select the best of the releases

Monthly Best Buys
Recordings of the Month and Bargains of the Month

Arthur Butterworth Writes

An occasional column

Phil Scowcroft's Garlands
British Light Music articles

Classical blogs
A listing of Classical Music Blogs external to MusicWeb International

Reviewers Logs
What they have been listening to for pleasure



Bulletin Board

Give your opinions or seek answers

Pat and present

Helpers invited!

How Did I Miss That?

Currently suspended but there are a lot there with sound clips

Composer Resources

British Composers

British Light Music Composers

Other composers

Film Music (Archive)
Film Music on the Web (Closed in December 2006)

Programme Notes
For concert organizers

External sites
British Music Society
The BBC Proms
Orchestra Sites
Recording Companies & Retailers
Online Music
Agents & Marketing
Other links
Web News sites etc

A pot-pourri of articles

MW Listening Room
MW Office

Advice to Windows Vista users  
Site History  
What they say about us
What we say about us!
Where to get help on the Internet
CD orders By Special Request
Graphics archive
Currency Converter
Web Ring
Translation Service

Rules for potential reviewers :-)
Do Not Go Here!
April Fools

Untitled Document

Reviews from previous months
Join the mailing list and receive a hyperlinked weekly update on the discs reviewed. details
We welcome feedback on our reviews. Please use the Bulletin Board
Please paste in the first line of your comments the URL of the review to which you refer.