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Poulenc wrote his Litanies à la vierge noire in 1936 after his visit to the shrine of the Black Madonna at Rocamadour, which also signalled his return to the Roman Catholic faith. It was originally scored for female chorus and organ, but in 1947 he wrote a sympathetically orchestrated accompaniment for strings and timpani, which is the version given here – although you would never guess it from the less than sparse liner booklet. It’s a colourfully contrasted work, with its roots stemming from chant. ‘Contrasted’ could also be said of the setting of the 12 verses of the Stabat Mater. Written for soprano solo, mixed chorus and orchestra, it veers from intense solemnity to the lively and vibrant. Serge Baudo obtains eloquent and persuasive performances from the National Choir and Orchestra of Lyon, enhanced by the singing of Michèle Lagrange. The men’s voices are particularly impressive.

SHIRLEY RATCLIFFE Read the full review on Agora Classica

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