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John Eliot Gardiner/London Symphony Orchestra/Monteverdi Choir
LILI BOULANGER, IGOR STRAVINSKY: CHORAL WORKS
(DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON)

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The real revelations on this release are the pieces by Lili Boulanger, younger sister of the more famous teacher and composer Nadia. Winner of the prestigious Prix de Rome when she was 16, she died in 1918 at the age of 24, leaving behind a small set of works that show an amazingly mature musical voice. Her music is dark and dramatic, and her unconventional harmonies and orchestral color reveal a debt to Debussy and Ravel. The four compositions of hers on this CD range from the simple, exuberant fanfares that open her setting of Psalm 24 to the spare contemplation of the Old Buddhist Prayer, whose text must have been a great comfort to her in her perpetual bouts with illness. Most astonishing of all is Out of the Depths, a gigantic setting of Psalm 130. Here one finds a totally original musical vocabulary and an expressive intensity on the order of Berg or Messiaen. The workís final, unsettling collapse offers none of the peace the prayer wishes for so devoutly. And it whets oneís appetite for the works that never appeared.

Gardiner is, itís clear, an advocate of Boulangerís works, and he and his British forces capture her originality. The singing of the Monteverdi Choir and the brass playing of the LSO are especially good. Also included is a impressive reading of Stravinskyís Symphony of Psalms that nonetheless lacks the fire and intensity these forces bring to Boulanger. Itís for the latter that this CD really interests.

BY DAVID WEININGER

Issue Date: December 26, 2002 - January 2, 2003
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