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Rameau: Les Grands Motets / Herreweghe, La Chapelle Royale

Release Date: 08/15/2000 
Label:  Harmonia Mundi Musique D'abord Catalog #: 1951078   Spars Code: ADD 
Composer:  Jean-Philippe Rameau
Performer:  Peter KooyJan-Willem JansenSuzanne GariGuy de Mey,   ... 
Conductor:  Philippe Herreweghe
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Ghent Collegium VocaleLa Chapelle Royale Paris
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 0 Hours 47 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

The fine tradition of the 'grand motet' in seventeenth-century France was carried well into the following century notably by Campra, Gervais, Rameau and Mondonville. Sometimes these later examples of the form lack the homogeneity and cohesion of motets by Lully or Delalande, for example, but that is certainly not to say that they are devoid of charm and invention. The genre is still a neglected one and would generously respond to closer scrutiny by choral societies. The handful of grands motets by Rameau date from a period preceding the performance of his first opera, in 1733; a period which, in the sphere of church music, was dominated by the works of Delalande, Surintendant de la Musique du Roi. His influence can be felt in the formal Read more outline of Rameau's motets but not to any extent in the character of the music itself which, even at this comparatively early stage of his creative output, often bears unmistakable hallmarks of the theatre music to follow.

These new and radiant performances of the two greatest of Rameau's grand motets, with the addition of the brief and contrapuntal Laboravi, which Rameau published in his Traite de l'harmonie as an example of fugal writing, strike a powerful blow in defence of a style which many commentators on Rameau's church music have described as uneven in quality. Rameau, himself, once told an admirer of his that he found it more difficult to compose solos and dialogues than choruses and instrumental parts. That shows from time to time in the motets but, even so, it is a revelation to hear how the supposed weak moments derive strength from stylish and alert performances such as these. At first I found the acoustic of the Carmelite Church in Ghent too reverberant but, after a few minutes, began to savour the halo of sound that encompasses both singing and playing. It's an acoustic which emphasizes the fact that Rameau had a fine ear for textures, an aspect of the music seemingly well understood by those concerned with these performances. The choir is composed of a blend of La Chapelle Royale in Paris and the Collegium Vocale of Ghent. The result is pleasing and effective though not outstanding. The soloists, on the other hand, are first rate with distinguished contributions from the tenor Guy de Mey and the baritone Stephen Varcoe. The instrumental ensemble too is almost ideal and containing, as it does, several members of La Petite Bande.

I cannot imagine anyone finding this music either dull or repetitive; indeed, one of its many virtues is the variety of moods and textures contained therein. At first one may be struck by the wistful solos and ensembles with their delicately scored accompaniments—the "Magnavit Dominus" and "Qui Seminant" of In convertendo and the "Beati qui habitant" of the Quam dilecta come readily to mind—but, in the end, I think it is the vigorous and sometimes complex choruses which call forth our greatest admiration. That perceptive scholar and champion of Rameau's music, the late Cuthbert Girdlestone, described the closing five-part chorus of In converienda as the greatest piece of all the composer's church music, and deserving of a place amongst his finest compositions. I feel inclined to agree with him.

Full texts in French, English, German and, of course, Latin, are included in Harmonia Mundi's exemplary fashion, together with a lively commentary on the music. My pressing was not of the best but perhaps I was unlucky. An absorbing issue; strongly recommended.

-- Gramophone [2/1983]
reviewing the original LP release of this title
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Works on This Recording

In convertendo by Jean-Philippe Rameau
Performer:  Peter Kooy (Bass), Jan-Willem Jansen (Organ), Suzanne Gari (Soprano),
Guy de Mey (Tenor), Stephen Varcoe (Baritone), Henri Ledroit (Countertenor)
Conductor:  Philippe Herreweghe
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Ghent Collegium Vocale,  La Chapelle Royale Paris
Period: Baroque 
Written: circa 1718; France 
Language: Latin 
Laboravi by Jean-Philippe Rameau
Performer:  Jan-Willem Jansen (Organ)
Conductor:  Philippe Herreweghe
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Ghent Collegium Vocale,  La Chapelle Royale Paris
Period: Baroque 
Written: by 1722; France 
Language: Latin 
Quam dilecta by Jean-Philippe Rameau
Performer:  Suzanne Gari (Soprano), Lieve Monbaliu (Soprano), Stephen Varcoe (Baritone),
Jan-Willem Jansen (Organ), Guy de Mey (Tenor), Peter Kooy (Bass)
Conductor:  Philippe Herreweghe
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Ghent Collegium Vocale,  La Chapelle Royale Paris
Period: Baroque 
Written: circa 1720; France 
Language: Latin 

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