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French Baroque Cantatas
Michel Pignolet de MONTÉCLAIR (1667-1737)
La mort de Didon (c.1709) [13:04]
Ariane et Bacchus (1728) [14:38]
Jean-Baptiste STUCK (1680-1755)
L’amant réconcilié (1706) [12:09]
Céphale et Aurore (1706) [17:14]
Taryn Fiebig (soprano) (Stuck)
rec. October 2004 (Stuck) and September-October 2005 (Montéclair)
476 5941 [57:25]
small-scale and rather beautiful cantatas will probably be
completely unknown to many. Three were written in the first
decade of the eighteenth century; the fourth, de Monteclair’s Ariane
et Bacchus is a significantly later work from 1728. They’re
played by Ensemble Battistin, which comprises two violins,
viola, cello, viola de gamba, flute and harpsichord.
Montéclair was a double bass player and composer who specialised
in cantata writing. He’d spent some time in Italy and had
clearly absorbed certain elements of Italian vocal expression. La
mort de Didon was written for voice, violin, flute and
basso continuo in around 1709. It takes the familiar story
of Dido’s rage at her abandonment by Aeneas and her despairing
suicide and brings to the text intensely dramatic focus.
The opening flying violin statements evoke Dido’s visceral
and volatile emotive state before she even sings. The quelling
flute makes a consolatory attempt but Dido’s scorn is concentrated
in the ensuing revenge aria. Mezzo Fiona Campbell brings
commendable passion to bear here; she has a lightish mezzo
but it’s very well focused and equalized and she’s splendidly
agile, surmounting the technical difficulties with expert
assurance. The end is truly desolate, de Montéclair judging
second cantata is Ariane et Bacchus in which the classical
tropes are reprised. This time it’s Ariane who has been abandoned
by Theseus. Bacchus, moved and not a little in love with
her, gives Ariadne a crown with seven gold stars which, after
her death, becomes the constellation that bears her name – Ariadne’s
Crown. De Montéclair proves adept once more with flute, unfolding
a forlorn solo that winds around the mezzo. Her outbursts
are powerful but well scaled but the highest plains of inspiration
are reserved for the aria Regnez adorable mortelle – aptly
noted as an air tendrement in which the sanguine vocal
line is perfectly counterbalanced by the renewed athleticism
of the flute. Bacchus, after all, is the answer to mortal
Stuck was an Italian composer
and so perfectly placed to embody the growing taste for the
urbanity of Franco-Italian writing. Unlike de Montéclair
who was a good double bassist, Stuck was a virtuoso cellist.
Stuck was a court musician employed by the Duke of Orleans
and thus knew Jean-Baptiste Morin who’d written the first
French cantata. The two examples here derive from Stuck’s
first book of cantatas (1706-14) and are superior examples
of the genre.
L’amant réconcilié offers a different slant from the emotive combustion of de Monteclair.
This is a lyrical and delightful work, excellently sung by
soprano Taryn Fiebig. She brings ardour but also clarity
to her lines and Stuck surprises us all with his intensely
involving and uplifting fugal finale. Céphale et Aurore is
a contemporaneous work which takes the myth of Aurora, Goddess
of the Dawn and her discovery of the mortal, sleeping Cephalus.
This is a setting notable for its grave and compact beauty
and its evocative setting. It also embraces the element of
eager gaiety which it relinquishes almost immediately for
pathos. All these emotive states are suggested through immediacy
of word setting and subtlety of instrumental accompaniment.
These four cantatas make
for contrasting and rewarding listening, especially when
performed so well as here and in so sympathetic an acoustic.
ABC’s notes are full of information and full texts. The cover
painting, The Triumph of Bacchus by Charles Joseph
Natoire, is well suited to the de Montéclair, although it’s
a sumptuously florid work!
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