Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Campra - Grands Motets - William Christie & Les Arts Florissants

  • Release Date: 2003
  • Label: Virgin Classics
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Composer: Andre Campra
  • Performer: William Christie,
  • Les Arts Florissants
  • cd info/ buy
Though credited with inventing the “opera-ballet” and known primarily today for his numerous spirited stage productions, the remarkably prolific French Baroque composer André Campra was equally famous in his time as a church musician, penning (as of last count) no fewer than 60 “petits motets” and 51 “grands motets” (ones scored for full orchestra, choir, and soloists). In 1993 Les Arts Florissants director William Christie (performing on organ) shared continuo roles with viola da gambist Anna-Marie Lasla (who returns here), supporting soprano Jacqueline Nicolas in a lovely and highly acclaimed program of six of Campra’s petit motets for the Pierre Verany label. Now with much more Campra under his belt (including the premiere recording of Idomeneo, one of his most famous operas) Christie here offers an equally stunning program conducting three of Campra’s grand motets as well as a choral fragment–the Introit from his Requiem.Given how active Campra was as an opera composer it’s not surprising that equally rich gestural and melodic elements are often heard in these motets. For instance, the fifth movement of Notus in Judea Deus (In Judah is God known) features a highly dramatic bass duet powerfully rendered here by Andrew Foster-Williams and Arnaud Marzorati. Heightened by Christie’s crisper, more urgent articulation (particularly from the strings) Les Arts Florissants now marginally outclasses my long-standing reference recording–Herve Niquet and Le Concert Spirituel’s otherwise fine performance on Adda. (Enthusiastic listeners new to Campra would do well to seek out all three unfortunately deleted volumes Niquet devoted to the composer, featuring two extraordinary soloists–the youthful Veronique Gens and countertenor extraordinaire Jean-Paul Fouchécourt.) Equally exuberant is baritone Nicolas Rivenq’s opening aria to Exaudiat te Dominus (May the Lord hear thee), the program’s most consistently upbeat motet. Preceded by an orchestral pomp and fanfare worthy of Handel, Rivenq’s proclamations, though short, are stunning–as are the rousing choral, brass, and percussion forces that follow.Christie concludes the program with the Introit movement of Campra’s well-tended Requiem–Herreweghe (Harmonia Mundi), Gardiner (Erato), and again Niquet all claim remarkably lucid, impassioned performances on disc. Though Christie favors a slightly slower tempo than all three, like Herreweghe he places primary emphasis on the movement’s rhythmic structure, heightening its sense of grandeur and solemn nobility. If Christie’s intention here was to whet our appetites for a complete performance of the piece, he has succeeded. Virgin’s sound is excellent–spacious and slightly reverberant while preserving instrumental and vocal detail. This is a very rewarding release and highly recommended, especially to those unfamiliar with this unjustifiably neglected composer.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Stile Antico - Song of Songs - Palestrina, Gombert, Lassus, Victoria (2009) [24-96]

  • Release Date: 2009
  • Label: Harmonia Mundi
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Composer: Various
  • Performer: Stile Antico
  • cd info/ buy
One expectation that such an album may raise in its listeners is an answer to the question of what common and special inspiration might composers have taken from contemplating this most erotic of Biblical texts. The symptoms of their reactions might be sensuous melismas, perhaps, and anguished suspensions, surging bass-lines and…let us draw a veil there. Such devices are in abundance, whether chastely deployed in turn by Clemens and Palestrina or flaunted all at once in the selections of Guerrero and Gombert, though no more so than they would be on a programme of Marian or Lenten devotions; and these are just the opening four tracks.That unfair calculation ignores the plainchant antiphons between each pair of motets. It is rare for me to feel that such interspersions work on CD – let’s get straight to the polyphony – as well as they must in a genuinely liturgical context, but they do here, thanks to the quiet good taste and stylistically homogeneous approach of Stile Antico, with an especially winsome unanimity to the female-only Tota pulchra es.Indeed, these are just the sort of performances I’d hope to hear in church, which was (one feels) the practical and creative laboratory for what is recorded: full but not strained singing, allowing an advantageous acoustic and the number (12) and freshness of voices to take care of blend and balance, with plenty left in reserve for the longer spans of the two magnificent Victoria anthems, Vadam et circuibo and Vidi speciosam. Small choirs of semi-pro ex-Oxbridge choral scholars are not exactly thin on the ground, but with that background in mind, you may still find something new and different: I did, in the naively affecting declamations and unisons of Ceballos and the madrigalian business of Vivanco.
Hi-Res flac 24-96

Friday, January 6, 2012

Telemann - Quatuors Parisiens Vols 2&3 - Holloway, Duftschmid, et al.

This CPO edition presents a complete recording of the 12 Paris Quartets featuring high points in Telemann's chamber music as well as enthralling and imaginative interpretations by top-quality instrumentalists performing with elegance and sophistication.
flac, covers, thank you Thomas!


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