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André CAMPRA (1660-1744)
Messe de Requiem (Messe des Morts) [42.13]
De profundis, Psalm 129 in the Vulgate (1723) [17.19]
Salome Haller (soprano), Sarah Gendrot (soprano), Rolf Ehlers (alto), Benoit Haller (tenor), Philip Niederberger (bass)
ensemble3 vocal et instrumental/Hans Michael Beuerle
rec. 29 October-2 November 2014 Église Saint-Maurice d'Orschwiller, France
Full Latin texts with translations.
CARUS 83.391 [59.35]

It’s heartening to see another recording of André Campra’s underrated and striking Messe de Requiem (Messe des Morts) and this desirable Carus release also includes a setting of the penitential psalm De profundis.

An adopted Parisian for most of his long life, Campra was the most significant composer to emerge between Lully and Rameau. As a church musician working at the Cathedrals of Arles, Toulouse and Notre-Dame de Paris, Campra produced a significant body of sacred works including some 100 motets and 20 cantatas and a number of scores for the theatre. Until his resignation from Notre-Dame in 1700 Campra had been largely unable to acknowledge his stage works without damaging the reputation of the Church, so he had composed under the name of his brother Joseph. After focusing on theatrical music for a number of years, he turned his attention back to sacred music and held posts as maître de musique to the Prince de Conti; sous-maître at the Chapelle Royale à Versailles and later returning to the theatre as Inspecteur de l'Académie royale de musique (l'Opéra de Paris).

Despite research by musicologists the actual compositional date and intention behind Campra’s seven movement Messe de Requiem have not been discovered. Writer Jean-Luc Macia, a specialist in baroque music, describes this notable work as “striking for its balance between grand polyphonic choruses and homophonic choral passages.” In the opening movement Introit it is not long before the choral sound washes gloriously over the listener. Under the direction of Hans Michael Beuerle, his group of excellent soloists and chorus brings out the passages of awe-inspiring lyricism with real assurance, producing an affecting sense of sacred consolation. Especially well performed is the great concluding movement, which, according to Beuerle, ends the work with a tender premonition rather than an exultant confession.

Campra’s setting of the De profundis, Psalm 129 in the Vulgate is cast in eight movements, commencing with short orchestral prelude. A rewarding and captivating score, it is thought to have been written in 1723, early in the reign of King Louis XV, possibly to commemorate the death Philippe d'Orléans.

Throughout Beuerle directs unwavering playing from his impressive ten strong chamber group, using period instruments. Under Catherine Fender, the twenty-five strong chorus is clearly well prepared and sounds inspiringly reverential. The accompanying booklet is an example of best practice, containing a pair of interesting and helpful essays and full Latin texts with English, French and German translations. Recorded at Église Saint-Maurice d'Orschwiller, the sound team for Carus provides first class sound quality, clear and particularly well balanced.

In the Messe de Requiem the main competition to Hans Michael Beuerle on Erato comes from two well known early music specialists. On Harmonia Mundi, recorded at Paris in 1987, there is the inspired account from Philippe Herreweghe conducting Choeur et orchestra de La Chapelle Royale, which is my marginal preference. In addition there is a worthy recording of Sir John Eliot Gardiner directing the Monteverdi Choir and English Baroque Soloists from London in 1979 on Erato/Warner.

Soon after this Carus album was recorded, Hans Michael Beuerle died in January 2015 after a short illness.

Michael Cookson



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