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Philidor: Carmen Saeculare, Etc / Cangemi, Gubisch, Et Al

Release Date: 03/27/2007 
Label:  Naxos   Catalog #: 8557593   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  André Danican Philidor
Performer:  Nora GubischVeronica CangemiDonald LitakerAntonio Abete
Conductor:  Jean-Claude MalgoireChristian Benda
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Swiss Radio ChorusOrchestra della Svizzera ItalianaPrague Chamber Orchestra
Number of Discs: 2 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 50 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

If the fascinating sensitivities of the late 1780s attract then this is an artefact which will bring great pleasure.

François-André Danican Philidor started his musical career as a boy chorister in the Chapelle Royal at Versailles. Taught by Campra, his first motet was performed there in 1738. At the same time as he was building his career in music, Philidor acquired considerable ability as a chess player, and in the 1740s he could regularly be found playing opponents such as Voltaire and Rousseau in the Café de la Régence.

After travels in Europe and England, Philidor returned to France in 1754. Theatre was the court fashion of the time, and the composer ensured considerable
Read more success with works such as the comic opera Le maréchal ferrant (The Blacksmith), the overture for which is in the Italianate form of a three movement Sinfonia. These overtures, which also include Le sorcier, and Tom Jones, which was of course based on Fielding’s famous novel, are typically fresh and lively, setting the scene of the drama to follow and introducing some of the musical themes in the opera. Listeners wondering how to classify Philidor’s style should think very much in terms of Mozartean or Haydnesque high classical, with all traces of twiddly French baroque ornamentation having long ago gone by the wayside. Collectors wondering about the conductor Christian Benda might also be interested to know that he is indeed descended from the Czech Benda dynasty of the 18th century.

The main work on this double CD is Philidor’s Carmen Sæculare. This is an oratorio, setting poems by Horace, some of which are associated with the Roman centennial celebrations of 17 B.C. Philidor was by 1788 once again in England, and the work came about on the instigation of an Italian scholar called Giuseppe Baretti, a well known intellectual figure in London. By all accounts a colourful figure in his own right, Baretti had once been charged with murder after stabbing a man in self defence in the Haymarket. He was acquitted, with no less than Dr. Johnson, Edmund Burke and David Garrick appearing as character witnesses. Baretti chose the Latin texts for the Carmen Sæculare, and sought a man ‘fertile in ideas and expedients and able to temper alternately the solemnity of Church-music with the brilliancy of the theatrical’.

Philidor succeeded admirably in this task, and the piece is full of gorgeous moments. There are of course hints at what went before in the mighty oratorio tradition of Handel, and with a little imagination one can sense the immenence of Haydn’s The Creation. Philidor never quite gives us a blockbuster number which would have us on our feet, but considering the complexity of the texts this might be less of a surprise. Fortunately for us, Keith Anderson’s comprehensive booklet notes allow us to follow the content by track number, while the full texts are available on the Naxos website. The first parts invocate Apollo, and deal with various aspects of Achilles and the Trojan war, the foundation of Rome, praise for Diana and prayers that the plague should be averted from Caesar and his people, descending instead on the Persians and Britons.

The fourth part deals with the Carmen Sæculare proper, with Sapphic stanzas which include further prayers to the gods, and recollections of their interaction with mortals such as Aeneas. Philidor’s music is suitably responsive to the texts, and at times descriptive, with the rising of Apollo as the god of the sun clearly depicted.

Recording and performance are generally excellent in all of the works on these discs, and while the orchestra is a little more distant in the Carmen Sæculare when compared to the overtures this is only to be expected. The balance with soloists and choir is very good indeed, the former being not too forward, the latter being well rounded and articulating the latin texts with aplomb. This is not music which will shake your world to its foundations, but if the fascinating sensitivities of pre-French-revolutionary artistic and intellectual life attract then this is an artefact which will bring great pleasure.

-- Dominy Clements, MusicWeb International
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Works on This Recording

Carmen Saeculare by André Danican Philidor
Performer:  Nora Gubisch (Mezzo Soprano), Veronica Cangemi (Soprano), Donald Litaker (Tenor),
Antonio Abete (Bass)
Conductor:  Jean-Claude Malgoire
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Swiss Radio Chorus,  Orchestra della Svizzera Italiana
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1779; France 
Venue:  Auditorio RSI, Lugano, Switzerland 
Length: 80 Minutes 23 Secs. 
Language: Latin 
Notes: Auditorio RSI, Lugano, Switzerland (01/21/1998 - 01/22/1998) 
Tom Jones: Overture by André Danican Philidor
Conductor:  Christian Benda
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Prague Chamber Orchestra
Period: Classical 
Written: by 1765; Paris, France 
Date of Recording: 04/19/2005 
Venue:  Studio Domovina, Prague, Czech Republic 
Length: 7 Minutes 58 Secs. 
Le maréchal ferrant: Overture by André Danican Philidor
Conductor:  Christian Benda
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Prague Chamber Orchestra
Period: Classical 
Written: by 1761 
Date of Recording: 04/19/2005 
Venue:  Studio Domovina, Prague, Czech Republic 
Length: 12 Minutes 44 Secs. 
Le sorcier: Overture by André Danican Philidor
Conductor:  Christian Benda
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Prague Chamber Orchestra
Period: Classical 
Written: by 1764 
Date of Recording: 04/19/2005 
Venue:  Studio Domovina, Prague, Czech Republic 
Length: 8 Minutes 54 Secs. 

Sound Samples

Le marechal ferrant: Overture, "Symphony No. 27 in G major": I. Allegro
Le marechal ferrant: Overture, "Symphony No. 27 in G major": II. Andante con spirito
Le marechal ferrant: Overture, "Symphony No. 27 in G major": III. Presto
Carmen saeculare: Ouverture
Carmen saeculare: Prologue: Odi profanum vulgus (tenor)
Carmen saeculare: Part I: Spiritum Phoebus mihi (tenor)
Carmen saeculare: Part I: Deliae tutela Deae fugaces (tenor, chorus)
Carmen saeculare: Part I: Nupta iam dices (tenor, chorus)
Carmen saeculare: Part II: Dive, quem proles Niobea magnae (chorus)
Carmen saeculare: Part II: Ceteris maior, tibi miles impar (bass)
Carmen saeculare: Part II: Ille, mordaci velu icta ferro (bass, chorus)
Carmen saeculare: Part II: Ni tuis flexus Venerisque gratae (soprano)
Carmen saeculare: Part II: Doctor argutae fidicen Thaliae (chorus)
Carmen saeculare: Part III: Dianam tenerae dicite virgines (soprano, mezzo-soprano)
Carmen saeculare: Part III: Vos laetam fluviis et nemorum coma (tenor, chorus)
Carmen saeculare: Part III: Hic bellum lacrimosum (soloists, chorus)
Carmen saeculare: Part IV: Phoebe silvarumque potens Diana (soprano, mezzo-soprano, chorus)
Carmen saeculare: Part IV: Alme Sol, curru nitido diem (bass, chorus)
Carmen saeculare: Part IV: Rite maturos aperire partus (soprano)
Carmen saeculare: Part IV: Certus undenos decies per annos (chorus)
Carmen saeculare: Part IV: Vosque veraces cecinisse, Parcae (bass)
Carmen saeculare: Part IV: Fertilis frugum pecorisque Tellus (soprano, mezzo-soprano, chorus)
Carmen saeculare: Part IV: Conditio mitis placidusque (soloists, chorus)
Carmen saeculare: Part IV: Roma si vestrum est opus (tenor)
Carmen saeculare: Part IV: Di probos mores docili iuventae (tenor)
Carmen saeculare: Part IV: Quaeque vos bobus veneratur albis (bass, chorus)
Carmen saeculare: Part IV: Iam mari terraque manus potentes (tenor)
Carmen saeculare: Part IV: Iam Fides et Pax et Honos Pudorque (tenor)
Carmen saeculare: Part IV: Augur et fulgente decorus arcu (mezzo-soprano)
Carmen saeculare: Part IV: Quaeque Aventinum tenet Algidumque (soloists)
Carmen saeculare: Part IV: Haec Iovem sentire Deosque cunctos (soloists, chorus)
Le sorcier: Overture
Tom Jones: Overture

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