Notes and Editorial Reviews
During his life Nicolas Bernier (1665-1734) was a highly regarded teacher and composer; today he's primarily remembered as one of the most conservative representatives of musical thought in the generation before Rameau. While sacred vocal works comprise the bulk of his prolific output, Bernier also composed seven books of secular chamber cantatas, including the two featured here from book five--the Premiere Cantate ou Divertissement Apollon ou le Dieu du jour (Apollo or the God of Day, Night, and Comus) and the Second Cantate ou Divertissement, avec Symphonie L'Aurore (Dawn). The title of this program, Les Nuits de Sceaux (Nights of Seals), is Bernier's own, having composed these cantatas specifically for the evening's entertainment of the
daughter-in-law of Louis XIV, Louise-Benedicte de Bourbon Duchess of Maine, a legendary insomniac and renowned for her lavish nocturnal fêtes.
Bernier's expert, stylish treatment of this relatively ordinary subject matter (both works are basically banters between the Pagan incarnations of times of day enumerating and arguing their respective virtues and vices) is a marvel. Though for the most part the action remains only moderately dramatic, Bernier's often clever use of instrumentation effectively complements the dialogue. For instance, in the opening cantata Bernier heightens the dialogue between Apollo (countertenor Robert Getchell) and Night (soprano Gaelle Mechaly) in their fifth-movement duet with shifting tempos and some remarkably animated violin writing. In the cantata's final sequence Bernier creates a lovely trio exemplifying the propriety, elegance, and sophistication of the period. Here, light harpsichord figures begin what gradually evolves into a slow instrumental dance, pausing, then accelerating and finally concluding with a small yet inspired chorus, punctuated by Patrick Cohen-Akenine's lively fiddling.
The second cantata also features many inspired scenes, the highlight being Mechaly's dazzling, intensely emotional aria "Muses, vous dormez encore!" (Muses, still you sleep!). Alpha's richly detailed sound leaves little to be desired. As usual with this label the extravagant presentation is first class and the informative and entertaining notes by Denis Grenier and Catherine Cessac offer many fascinating anecdotes. I can't imagine anyone who enjoys music of the French baroque listening to this program and not bemoaning the fact that so little of Bernier is available.
--John Greene, ClassicsToday.com Read less
Works on This Recording
Les nuits de Sceaux by Nicolas Bernier
Anne-Marie Jacquin (Mezzo Soprano),
Hanna Bayodi (Soprano),
Alain Buet (Bass),
Gaëlle Mechaly (Soprano),
Patrick Cohën-Akenine (Violin),
Robert Getchell (Countertenor)
Les Folies Françoises,
Versailles Baroque Music Center Chorus
Written: by 1715
Date of Recording: 10/2003
Venue: Our Lady of Bonsecours Chapel, Paris, Fr
Length: 71 Minutes 54 Secs.
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