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André CAMPRA (1660-1744)
Grands Motets: Notus in Judea Deus; De Profundis; Exaudiat te Dominus; Requiem: Introit;
Petits Motets: Salve Regina; Insere Domine; Quemadmodum desiderat cervus; Florete prata
François COUPERIN (1668-1733)
Petits Motets: Audite omnes et expavescite; Respice in me; Salve Regina; Usquequo, Domine; Quid retribuam tibi Domine
Jaël Azzaretti (dessus); Paul Agnew (haute-contre); Bruno Renhold (haute-contre); Nicolas Rivenq (taille); Andrew Foster-Williams (basse-taille); Arnaud Marzorati (basse-taille); Les Arts Florissants Chorus and Orchestra/William Christie
rec. live, Cité de la Musique, Salle des Concerts, Paris, September 2002 (CD 1), Église de Gorges, Manche, July 2004 (CD 2). DDD
VIRGIN VERITAS 6932062 [67:04 + 72:52]


Experience Classicsonline

For lovers of the French baroque repertoire – and of church music in particular – this double disc set is a real treat. Campra is still a relatively neglected composer, although he deserves not to be. With a long career straddling those of Lully and Rameau, and as a contemporary of Charpentier, Delalande and Couperin, Campra exemplifies the musical changes that took place in France from the later years of Louis XIV’s grand siècle into the reign of his grandson Louis XV.

The first disc includes three of Campra’s grands motets, scored for soloists, chorus and a sizeable orchestra. All three display Campra’s distinctive style, with its lively, rhythmic quality and rich harmonies. Notus in Judea Deus includes a hushed, lyrical ‘sleep’ movement (track 4) – popular in operatic works of the period – with an affecting solo part for dessus (soprano), sung beautifully by Jaël Azzaretti. Her bright, pure tone reappears in De Profundis (track 14), accompanied by darker oboe, bassoon and strings. Altogether more sombre and reflective, this work provides the other soloists with less interesting parts. Their contributions are more introspective and serviceable than inspired, although the final Requiem movement, in which the chorus bursts into life, is a real highlight.

Exaudiat te Dominus is a much brasher affair, with martial trumpets and timpani. Written to celebrate the recovery of Louis XIV from illness, and coinciding with the War of the Spanish Succession, the motet has shades of Charpentier’s Te Deum, and includes a warlike ‘bruit de guerre’ (track 23). The CD concludes with the Introit from Campra’s Requiem. An expanding web of shifting vocal lines, this movement surges to a powerful and deeply affecting climax.

The second CD is less dazzling than the first, but deserves repeated listening. It includes several short petits motets by Campra and his contemporary Couperin. Composed on a much smaller scale, these works feature solo parts for haute-contre (high tenor) and a small band of instrumentalists, ranging from organ and viola da gamba to additional violins and flutes. Unlike the grands motets, the petits motets were designed for genuine religious contemplation, and call upon technical virtuosity and subtlety from the solo singer. Paul Agnew rises to, and indeed surpasses, the challenge. His voice is light, delicate, versatile and genuinely expressive. The final motet, Campra’s ‘Florete prata’ is particularly delightful, with the florid vocal line matching the text’s call to the fields to burst into flower.

John-Pierre Joyce


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