The lighter music of the splendid French Baroque remains in need of greater exposure, making this disc of cantatas by the young Jean-Philippe Rameau and André Campra a welcome arrival. Here is some of the music the royals and aristocrats heard not in halls of opera and ballet but in more intimate surroundings, for amusement, with one or two singers and a small instrumental grouping.
…Campra was one of the leading French opera composers in the period between Jean-Baptiste Lully and Jean-Philippe Rameau. He wrote several tragédies en musique, but his chief claim to fame is as the creator of a new genre, opéra-ballet. He also wrote three books of cantatas as well as religious music, including a requiem…
“A history of the Requiem” takes the music-lover on a journey through the very varied history of the requiem. Presenting one work per century seemed to be just right for illustrating the evolution of this, one of the most significant musical forms in the history of music. The first part of the series, devoted to Ockeghem and Lassus, was awarded a ‘5’ by the prestigious magazine Goldberg, and here now is the second part, presenting the requiems of André Campra and Michael Haydn, recorded on period instruments. A worthy successor to Lully and an admitted model for Rameau, Campra gives us with his Requiem, an ideal gateway for entering into a musical world of unquestioned emotional depth. Michael Haydn, the brother of Joseph, is one of the most remarkable composers of sacred music from the classical period. Though the reasons leading to the composition of this Requiem are still in part unclear, so quickly was it composed, it may at any rate be stated that it left a profound impression on Mozart who was present at its first performance, so striking are the parallels between the two requiems (the same text, the same techniques). The Laudantes Consort, in its large formation, as well as the soloists, combine the dynamics and the sensitivity indispensable for serving these two works.
The most significant composer for the French stage between Lully and Rameau, Campra was born in Aix-en-Provence in 1660. His father, an amateur violinist, provided him with his first music lessons, and while he was a slow learner at first, he did begin to show talent, and joined the choir of St. Sauveur in 1674. At one point he nearly lost his place in the choir when he was caught giving unauthorized performances in secular theaters on the side. In August of 1681 he became the music master at the church of Ste.
This two-CD album brings together the two earliest recordings by La Petite Bande. They were made in 1973 and feature landmarks in two important French forms of entertainment—comedie-ballet and opera-ballet. Performed in 1670 at Chambord, one of Louis XIV's grandest country retreats, Le bourgeois gentilhomme was the high water mark of Lully's collaboration with Moliere and was to be the last work of its kind on which the two worked together. Moliere developed the comedie-ballet from the fashionable court ballets, working the dances and music into the body of the play with unparalleled skill. Lully, himself a dancer, proved a gifted partner as the music for Le bourgeois gentilhomme reveals.
The title of the two-disc album, Vivaldi: Vespro a San Marco, implies that the composer wrote a set of pieces comparable to Monteverdi's Vespro della beata Vergine, but the title needs to be interpreted somewhat loosely. The program notes describe the collection of psalms, canticles, motets, and prefatory chants recorded here as an evocation of a service of vespers Vivaldi might have assembled rather than a reconstruction of one he actually ever did. These vespers are distinctly Vivaldian in idiom, but they resemble Monteverdi's in the use of some common texts and in the diversity of musical styles, genres, and performing forces assembled; there is not much of a sense of unity in the traditional sense, but a profusion of delightfully varied musical vignettes, including a cappella chants, solos, ensembles, choruses, and instrumental pieces.