La Jeune France / The Sixteen

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Three composers from the group which styled itself ‘La Jeune France’ test vocal technique as never before, in music that can be rapturous and visceral,...
Three composers from the group which styled itself ‘La Jeune France’ test vocal technique as never before, in music that can be rapturous and visceral, perfumed and mystical, fresh, sensuous, erotic; music that was wholly new and yet recognizably French, a subtle mix of primitive emotion and sophistication overlaid with the élan and self-confidence of a re-born Paris, striding into the second half of the twentieth century.

R E V I E W S:

“This disc is something not far from a revelation ... elaborately sonorous, radiantly glowing ... as usual from this fine group, the performances are immaculately detailed, and, especially in the Messiaen, they have a very un-English sense of the sumptuousness that binds it in to a compelling whole.” THE DAILY TELEGRAPH

"Formed as a counterpoise to the urbane neo-Classicism and iconoclastic tendencies of Les Six, La Jeune France was a group of French composers who, in the words of Harry Christophers, wished to “restore eternal spiritual values to music.” Its members were André Jolivet, Olivier Messiaen, Jean Yves Daniel-Lesur, and, not represented on this CD, Yves Baudrier. All four were born between 1905 and 1908. The three cycles on this CD were commissioned by Marcel Couraud for his eponymous Ensemble Vocale. Couraud specified that they should be in 12 parts, about 20 minutes in length, and set to texts dealing with love.

Jolivet wrote his own text, compiling it from Egyptian, Hindu, Chinese, and Greek sources. This is a fantastically difficult work—not choral at all, but actually a setting for a “vocal orchestra” consisting of 12 solo voices. Similarly, Messiaen wrote his own texts for the Cinq rechants, basing it (as with the Turangalîla-symphonie and Harawi) in part on the story of Tristan and Isolde, and using Sanskrit and the Quecha language of Peru’s original native tribes. The music is absolutely typical of this composer, and the similarities between the Cinq rechants and the aforementioned Harawi are too numerous to mention here. Daniel-Lesur turned to the Bible and the Song of Songs for his text. At least in this recording, La cantique des cantiques uses a larger group of singers (24) than is used in the Jolivet and in the Messiaen (12). (One wonders why this ensemble is called “The Sixteen”!) At least in the United States, Daniel-Lesur is almost unknown today. (Norman Lebrecht, in his Companion to 20th-Century Music, drops the nugget that Daniel-Lesur “retreated” from the ideals of La Jeune France, and “wagnerized Pelléas” in his only opera Andrea del Sarto.) Of these three works, Messiaen’s is the most distinctive, Jolivet’s the most musically advanced, and Daniel-Lesur’s the most straightforward and conventionally erotic.

The members of The Sixteen sing with such accuracy and control that parts of the Cinq rechants are actually terrifying. (The climax of the middle song may have you worrying that your CD player is malfunctioning.) In terms of technique, there’s nothing lacking from these readings." - Raymond Tuttle, FANFARE

Product Description:

  • Release Date: May 01, 2004

  • UPC: 828021602320

  • Catalog Number: COR16023

  • Label: CORO

  • Number of Discs: 1

  • Composer: André Jolivet, Jean Yves Daniel-Lesur, Olivier Messiaen

  • Conductor: Harry Christophers

  • Orchestra/Ensemble: The Sixteen

  • Performer: La Jeune France