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  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    




João Domingos BOMTEMPO (1775-1842)

Kyrie and Gloria

Véronique Glens (soprano)
Helena Rasker (mezzo-soprano)
John Bowen (tenor)
Luís Rodrigues (baritone)
Michel Brodard (bass)
Gulbenkian Choir and Orchestra/Michel Corboz
Recorded 18 and 19 December 1997 in the Grand Auditorium of the Foundation Calouste Gulbenkian, Lisbon
STRAUSS SP 4383 [58.14]

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Bomtempo had risen to the position of first oboist in the band at the Portuguese Royal Court but following political unrest left first for Paris and later for London. It was in the French capital, in 1818, that he wrote the Kyrie and Gloria and he subsequently revised it in Lisbon in 1821 for its first performance, after his return from self-imposed exile. I know Bomtempo mainly through his piano works and it has been enjoyable to listen to the Kyrie and Gloria, works that may not be formally or musically over-ambitious but which, within their compass, still manage to be lyrical and are full of some refined orchestral pointing.

The Kyrie is a reflective, somewhat tense work with an ascending and descending bass line, aspirant and which builds in volume and fervour. Though essentially homophonic there is plenty to stimulate both vocally and instrumentally. The Gloria opens with a strongly punctuated drive, the soloists making their presence felt, with plenty of expressive choral moulding, supported by apposite diminuendi. The string pointing in the Laudamus Te is reminiscent of Haydn in its elegance and a fine duet between soprano Véronique Gens and tenor John Bowen is supported by strong choral "pillars", well crafted and dramatically cogent. Bowen is fine but Gens is the standout here. In the succeeding Domine Deus Luís Rodrigues and Michel Brodard are accompanied by strings, bassoon and trumpets; itís the close of the movement in which resides the greatest surprise Ė a choral section of beguiling plangency. Qui tollis is a trio for soprano, contralto and bass. Italianate and long Ė in this performance itís over sixteen-minutes it doesnít in truth possess quite the level of thematic material to sustain that breadth but there are charming things here. The piping clarinet for example makes an important appearance, At 3.50 the soloists sing over a clarinet and pizzicato basses; the clarinet adds warmth and the movement here becomes suffused in Italianate lyricism. Mezzo Helena Rasker has a well-modulated depth and more importantly focuses and blends her tone with Gens and Brodard. The strong edit as the movement ends is probably due to audience noise and is reflective, I guess, of the fact that this is a live performance recorded in the auditorium of the Gulbenkian Foundation (the following day was presumably a repeat performance or was used for patching, the notes arenít clear on the point). Qui sedes generates a fine sense of momentum, a lively curve of melody, one that becomes increasingly fervent with sure choral contributions. The Cum Sancto Spiritu is performed with only one of its sections so whilst itís an affirmatory way in which to end itís also very short at 1.51.

So a successful work and performance, the first of modern times. The experienced Michel Corboz directs with real sensitivity not least in the important matter of the orchestral part, which because it generally abjures monumental tuttis, relies instead on colouristic inflection for maximum effect. Thus chamber sonorities predominate as well as concertante sections. The choruses are involved and active ingredients of Bomtempoís pattern and the Gulbenkian choir acquit themselves well. Itís not a masterpiece and its Haydnesque character is very evident but thatís no reason at all not to investigate a charmingly assured work such as this.

Jonathan Woolf



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