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Saint-Saens & Hahn: À La Lumiere

Saint-Saens & Hahn: À La Lumiere

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Ever since its creation more than twenty-five years ago, the Accentus chamber choir has ardently championed the a cappella repertory: under its conductor and founder Laurence Equilbey, it has produced an impressive discography that sets the benchmark in this music. For this new recording, the first for Alpha, she hands over direction of the ensemble to Christophe Grapperon, its associate conductor since 2013: ‘It can never be said often enough: the a cappella repertory is a Holy Grail of vocal music! It is a sensory experience directly accessible to everyone, but demanding and often atypical for the listener.’ Hahn and Saint-Saëns are on the program of this album in superb choral works combining simplicity and expressive power, some of which have never been recorded before.


The ever-shifting, rich harmonies of the title work, Hahn’s À la lumière, are testament that writing for amateurs meant a lack neither of challenge nor musical quality (how come this has never been recorded before?). Nonetheless, it is luxury casting to hear works that could grace many local choirs sung by Accentus under Christophe Grapperon and, a couple of minor imprecisions aside, the results are ravishing.

-- BBC Music Magazine

This is a program of pieces seldom heard. Neither Camille Saint-Saens nor Reynaldo Hahn is much known for secular a cappella choral pieces. The pieces here are all new to me, and two are recorded for the first time.

Four of the five works by Saint-Saens remind me of Victorian part-songs of Charles Wood or Robert Pearsall and others with their many suspended notes. Their lushly chromatic style creates a dreamy atmosphere. `Calme des Nuits’ (with text by the composer) sounds like he had been listening to Bruckner’s `Locus Iste’. The tenors and basses perform the fifth piece, the spirited `Saltarelle’, with agility and vivacity. Each of the five pieces is a delight.

The longest piece, from which the album takes its name, is Hahn’s A la Lumiere (10:19), a lushly chromatic piece with text by Anatole France in praise of the life-giving blessing of sunlight. The ensemble’s ability to stay on pitch through this chromatic labyrinth is impressive. It and `L’Obscurite’ are recoded here for the first time.

Eloise Bella Kohn offers nicely animated collaboration in 3 of the 8 Hahn selections. Passages for solo piano, a cappella chorus, and accompanied chorus alternate in two Rondels, `Le Jour’ and `La Nuit’. The final piece of the program, `Aubade Athenienne’, is sung by four-part sopranos and altos.

This marks the first time Laurence Aquilbey has surrendered the musical direction of an Accentus recording to Christophe Grapperon, its associate conductor, since 2013. The precision and clarity of the perfectly balanced and well blended singing is first rate. The performances are ravishingly lovely.

-- American Record Guide

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Product Description:

  • Release Date: August 26, 2022

  • UPC: 3760014198649

  • Catalog Number: ALPHA864

  • Label: Alpha

  • Number of Discs: 1

  • Period: Romantic, 20th Century

  • Composer: Reynaldo Hahn, Camille Saint-Saens

  • Conductor: Christophe Grapperon

  • Orchestra/Ensemble: Accentus

  • Performer: Eloise Bella Kohn