Album: Poulenc, Gloria/Motets – Polyphony/Stephen Layto (Hyperion)

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The Independent Culture

After a friend died in a car accident in 1936, French composer Francis Poulenc, best known for his boulevardier wit and general joie de vivre, turned steadily towards religion – though as his 1959 setting of the 'Gloria' shows, religion with a sense of humour.

Frescoes with angels sticking out their tongues and Benedictine monks playing football inspired this piece, where punchy rhythms mix with melancholia. Conductor Stephen Layton's sentient performance is graced by Susan Gritton's ethereal soprano solos and rounded off with some of Poulenc's more solemn a cappella motets.

Pick of the Album: Gritton rising effortlessly in 'Domine Deus, Agnus Dei'