The Male Choir of Sartene, dir. Jean Paul Poletti
Corsica has preserved a polyphonic chant tradition, mostly by oral means since the 17th century, and consequently received much musicological attention from the outside world when this became apparent to certain scholars starting in the mid-1980s. The interest set off a program of research and recovery from monastic archives and produced newly performed music by choirs that resemble no others in the polyphonic vocal domain. This is because Corsican choirs tend to mix a majority of clear, open voices with a few using heavy vibrato. The resultant group timbre makes the continental European mother chants they sing sound more rustic, immediate and emotional.
These days the musical Franciscans of Corsica are mostly Belgian and they perform on this disc the work of the little known 19th Century composer Piettro-Battista Farinelli da Falconara (1834-1915) and a traditional Franciscan Requiem Mass. While the m! ! usic is fairly recent, it sounds much older, owing to those reverberant voices, and the intriguing ornamentation they ply on the sturdy architecture of liturgical texts. The music performed by the various chamber choirs of Corsica today possess as much an ethnic quality as they do an early music aspect, which is probably the reason for their notice by the rest of the world over the last decade and a half when chant popularity soared. This recording was made in a well-chosen location but displays a frightening truncation of natural room echo, as if documented with an early model low-sampling rate digital recording device. This is a shame since the performance is moving and unique for reasons stated above, and otherwise a sacred treasure. - Steve Taylor