International Record Review: outstanding.
Claude Debussy, Marice Ravel and André Jolivet each wrote one composition for unaccompanied chorus. Olivier Messiaen produced two. While his motet of 1937 „O Sacrum Convivium“ brings the mystifying static sound heard in his organ works of this period into the vocal medium, the major choral cycle „Cinq Rechants“ of 1948 is a composition with an esthetic entirely its own. Never before had anyone composed so radically for chorus: complex rhythms, large jumps between intervals, breathtaking tempos, and all of it as if passing, with the certainty and calmness of a sleepwalker, as Messiaen insisted.
The other path-braking cycle of French choral music, André Jolivet´s „Epithalame“, is similary fundamental in its conception. It was written only a few years later, in 1953, and its subtitle discloses its creator´s compositional experiment of using voices to achieve an orchestral effect.
By comparison, the two choral cycles by Debussy and Ravel remain within the bounds of the traditional. Both take the French Renaisance as the point of departure – all the while, however, remain well within the realm of modern times.
Ernest Chausson´s „Ballata“ is rather a misfit in this quartet of unique compositional success of twentieth century vocal music in that it is not considered to be as important as the others. Nonetheless, the very sound of this piece of occasional music written in the last years of life of the talented pupil of Jules Massenet and César Franck makes it a perfect fit.