Understandably, Poulenc's Gloria and Stabat Mater have almost invariably been coupled together on LPs and CDs. Similarly scored for solo soprano, chorus, and orchestra, the two works are arguably the twin peaks of Poulenc's sacred music, that is, they are irresistibly melodic, energetically rhythmic, directly emotional, conservatively harmonic, and fervently religious. That said, however, the difference in tone between the two works is as striking as their similarities. Where the Gloria is light, bright, and at times even funny, the Stabat Mater, as befits its subject matter, is dark, heavy, and always deeply sorrowful. In this pair of performances with Georges Prêtre leading the Orchestre National de France and the French Radio Choir from the '80s, both works are given the deluxe French treatment. Prêtre is as skilled at balancing his forces as he is at keeping the music moving, and, as importantly, he is as capable of expressing the Gloria's joyous wit as he is of articulating the Stabat Mater's profound suffering. But the real star of these performances is American soprano Barbara Hendricks whose clear, warm voice and excellent diction breath vibrant life into all Poulenc's glorious melodies.