Classical Editor: Rob Barnett                               Founder Len Mullenger:

Trois histoires sacreés
: Dialogus inter angelum et pastores, Mors Saulis et Jonathae, 'Cum essent congregata ad praelium', Sacrificium Abrahae
Il Seminario Musicale/Gérard Lesne
Astrée Naive E8821 [68 min]
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Gérard Lesne (alto or haut-contre, as too was Charpentier) researched these miniature oratorios, or spiritual operas, at Versailles and was delighted that they proved to be mature works by a theatrical composer at the peak of his powers - he dreams of staged performances.

The texts are from the Bible and the subjects are the Dialogue between The Angel and the Shepherds, The Deaths of Saul & Jonathan, and the familiar heart-stopping tale of Abraham & Isaac, traversing very much the same ground as in Britten's Canticle. There are eight solo singers, who double for the choruses, and seven instrumentalists. Lesne himself sings the witch of Endor in Saul & Jonathan, 'a fantastic role for an alto'.

All great stuff, with strong narrative and well depicted dramatic situations. Gérard Lesne branched out own his own to form Il Seminario Musicale after working with René Clemencic and William Christie, who had introduced him to Charpentier. With them he has made some 23 recordings and earned several awards. This recording is a joy; splendid singing and playing captured in just the right ambience at Versailles in October 2000. Comprehensive documentation in small but clear print; you might need your magnifying glass. There are full words and translations, full details of who sings what and plays with which instrument, a learned background essay by Catherine Cassac & an orientation to the project from an interview with Lesne in February 2001. You can't be much more up to date than that. Recommended warmly.

Peter Grahame Woolf

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