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Like his previous 1882 oratorio, “La Rédemption,” Charles Gounod composed his ambitious Sacred trilogy, “Mors et Vita,” for the Birmingham Festival in England. At that stage in his life, Gounod (1818-1893) enjoyed quite a reputation as a large-scale, choral composer, thereby benefitting from the popularity of choral societies in Great Britain. Along with secular choral music and songs, Gounod wrote Sacred music throughout his career.

Prior to hearing “Mors et Vita,” I was unfamiliar with Gounod’s large-scale, choral pieces. This work was a revelation. It’s a shame that during the last 100 years, his works in this genre have diminished in popularity. At a running time of two hours and 37 minutes on two CDs, this 1992 EMI recording I heard was a fine one, and I’d venture a guess that there aren’t many others of it in the catalogue. Under Maestro Michel Plasson (1933-), the soloists included bass-baritone José van Dam (1940-), tenor John Aler (1949-), alto Nadine Denize (1943-) and soprano Barbara Hendricks (1948-). They were supported by the Orfeón Donostiarra concert choir, organist Christoph Kuhlmann (1963-) and the Orchestre National du Capitole de Toulouse.

Unfortunately, Gounod is primarily known for a relatively limited amount of works. Therefore, I highly recommend this recording!

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