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Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

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Michel-Richard De LALANDE (1657-1736)
De Profundis; Regina Coeli;
Ensemble Vocal et Instrumental de Lausanne/Michel Corboz
Recorded in 1970 no further details given
Sacris Solemnis

Soloists unnamed
Chorale Stephane Caillat
Orchestre de Chambre/Jean-François Paillard
Recorded in 1980 no further details given
ERATO 2564 60240-2 [73.26]


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As can be seen, these recordings are now twenty and thirty years old and no matter what kind of a gloss I might attempt to put on it I have to say that they sound it in more ways than one.

But first the composer and the music.

De Lalande was most aptly described by one of his pupils François Colin de Blamont as the "Latin Lully" because, whereas Lully had concentrated mostly on opera in French (there are a few motets), Delalande concentrated on Church music some of it in Latin. Some of it is in part influenced by the Italianate models brought over by Andre Campra (1660-1744). Indeed De Lalande seems to have revised some of his music in the early 18th Century in an attempt to move towards the more popular and fashionable Italian style.

Maurice Bartholmey who wrote the first important study on Campra tells us (and this is my own translation) that "Delalande was forced to resign, since Louis XIV was set on investing his music with a more modern character." In preparing this review I decided to hear again the vast ‘Messe de Requiem’ by Campra (Harmonia Mundi 1251 La Chapelle Royale/Herreweghe). I was immediately struck by the similar formal lay-out, that is a chorus number followed by a solo number throughout, each solo number (often called a recit even when they weren’t!) being for a different voice. I then thought what a much better composer Campra seems to have been than De Lalande until, that is, I started to consider again the performances on this present CD. This music, in the hands of Herreweghe’s 1987 recording is so much more to my taste than Corboz for many reasons. It comes down to the quality of the singing. Too much vibrato is no longer considered acceptable or indeed pleasant in Baroque music especially when it is not controlled. That applies not only for soloists but also in choral work - the focus of the note is unclear. Secondly the boxy recording does not help and the soprano part appears to be a little distorted in louder passages. The ‘Sacris Solemnis’ recording from 1980 is marginally better as a recording (although there is some background hiss). The performance still features some rather ‘fat’ string sound, overly slow tempi and too much vibrato in the sopranos. This work however is better served by the soloists; especially reference should be made to the high tenor in his solo aria. Perhaps I am wrong but why is there a harpsichord and not an organ continuo?

The CD offers a well written and interesting accompanying essay by Olivier Rouviere, but there are no texts given at all. I realize that this CD is in the budget category but I fail to see why not even the Latin texts could have been given. No soloists are named which in some cases may be a blessing but also track titles are not given in the ‘Sacris Solemnis’.

It is interesting to compare the ‘De Profundis’ of De Lalande which runs to approximately thirty-seven minutes with a much shorter setting by his older contemporary Marc-Antoine Charpentier (1636-1704) recorded by Erato in 1985 (Musica Polyphonica/ Louis Devos on 75246). It was Campra who by saying that Charpentier had not such success in French opera but "had no peer for Latin music" side-stepped De Lalande. Yet Charpentier’s approach is a little more satisfying. Chorale sections are broken up with more orchestral interpolations. With vocal duets and trio sections there is more variety of texture and less textual repetition. Nevertheless I feel more moved by De Lalande’s opening and closing settings of the ‘Requiem Aeternam’ than by Charpentier who although inspired is contrapuntally more complex and strikes the heart less profoundly.

I am convinced that De Lalande is a fine composer illuminating the text with true meaning and insight, understanding the metrical nature of Latin verse and metre, blending contrapuntal skill with the new Italianate interest in melody. For me at least this CD is not the recording to choose. I would recommend the version of the ‘De Profundis’, coupled with some instrumental works, by Jeffrey Skidmore on ASV (Gaudeamus 141) which seems to be a perfect and stylistically modern and convincing introduction to this underrated and worthy composer.

Gary Higginson

 

 



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