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Early Music

Classical Editor: Rob Barnett                               Founder Len Mullenger



 


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Jean Joseph de MONDONVILLE (1711-1772)
Grand Motets

Venite Exultemus – Psalm 94 (1740)
Dominus Regnavit – Psalm 92 (1734)
Michelle CORRETTE (1709-1795)

Laudate Dominum – Psalm 148 (1768)
Collete Alliot-Lugaz (soprano), Danielle Borst (soprano)
Michael Goldthorpe (tenor), Jean Buclet (tenor), Philippe Hutenlocher (bass)
Ensemble Vocal de Lyon
Jean-François Paillard Chamber Orchestra/Jean-François Paillard
Recorded at the Hospice Contesse, Lille, France, December 1979 (Mondonville) and July 1976 (Corrette) ADD
WARNER APEX 2564 60155 2 [71’10]



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The so-called Grand Motets by Mondonville are indeed very grand affairs. Around nine of the seventeen he wrote between 1734 and 1758 survive, and the two on this re-issued Erato disc are probably the most popular, though none can claim to be exactly staple repertoire. This is a shame, as they contain some glorious music, richly varied in mood and texture, inventive in vocal and instrumental resourcefulness and at their best truly inspired.

Mondonville’s chief champions of recent years have been Marc Minkowski and William Christie; indeed, Christie’s Gramophone award winning Erato disc of 1997 contained at least one of these motets, Dominus Regnavit, the setting of parts of Psalm 92. Having only access to extracts of the Christie disc, it was still possible to make comparisons, and though these older Apex performances are lacking in some areas, there is much to commend them. Rhythms are crisply sprung, and there is a generally lively feel to this music making. It’s true that Christie tends to find a shade more drama in the darker moments, such as the Parata sedes setting for two sopranos and two oboes. Paillard is by no means outclassed though, and the beautifully paced opening to the magnificent Venite Exultemus feels just right to me, not too slow and with a steady growth in tension and drama. Christies’s version is, of course, at a lower pitch and with the period instruments of Les Arts Florissants, whereas Paillard uses modern instruments and pitch. He encourages sparing use of vibrato, however, and there is a general lightness of touch to the wind and string playing that is very appealing. The higher pitch does lead to some strain for the soloists, especially the tenor, and at least one of the sopranos is a little course under pressure, but the choral contribution is first-rate, and there is a very satisfying impetus in the various fugal passages. These performances may sound a touch old fashioned to some early music specialists, and I suppose Christie does ultimately find more light and shade overall, but the whole thing is very musical and there is much to enjoy here.

The Corrette coupling is a slightly older source (1976) but still eminently serviceable. The setting is much less dramatic or flamboyant than the Mondonville, but there is pleasure in hearing the contemporary French craze for all things Vivaldi, as Corrette bases most of the melodic material on ‘Spring’ from The Four Seasons. This cleverly permeates much of the piece and is altered and varied within the texture quite ingeniously. The performance is a little stodgy, and I can imagine Christie or Minkowski managing to wring greater variety out of the material, but there is plenty to enjoy.

The recordings are showing their age a bit, with slightly congested climaxes and some peaking on the piercing higher notes of the choir and soloists. There are no texts either, which is a pity as other Apex issues have provided them. But this is super-budget territory, and if you fancy dipping your toe into the glories of French Baroque choral music, this is a good place to start.

Tony Haywood



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