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Andre Campra: Messe De Requiem; In Convertendo

Campra / Getchell / Novelli / Omav / Schneebeli
Release Date: 04/12/2011 
Label:  K 617   Catalog #: 617224   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  André Campra
Conductor:  Olivier Schneebeli
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Les Pages et Les Chantres de Versailles
Number of Discs: 1 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

CAMPRA Requiem . Motet In covertendo Olivier Schneebeli, cond; Robert Getchell (ct); Jean-François Novelli (ten); Marc Labonnette (bs); Versailles Baroque Music Center Pages et Chantres; Musiques Anciennes et à Venir O (period instruments) K617 617224 (60:08 Text and Translation)

Of Italian parentage, André Campra was probably the most successful successor to Jean-Baptiste Lully in the last years of the grand epoch of Louis Read more XIV. He arrived in Paris in 1694 as the maître de chapelle at Notre Dame Cathedral, a post that gave him a degree of protection against the usual court intrigues over who would succeed musical dictator Lully, and in 1697 he came out of the proverbial closet to begin composing the court ballet, beginning with his L’Europe galant . By 1720 he had obtained all of the usual prestigious posts but retreated back into composing sacred music as the French critics targeted him more frequently. This disc presents two of the later works of his long career, a Requiem written around 1725 or so and one of the grands motets , a setting of Psalm 125 for soloists, chorus, and small orchestra in the Lullian tradition.

Both works are relatively static, despite the effusive descriptive booklet notes (in parallel French/English columns) by the conductor, Olivier Schneebeli. If one is looking for a powerful descriptive Mass for the Dead, this is not it. Rather, it is a finely crafted and gentle work, mainly homophonic in structure. The solo parts, such as the “Te decet hymnus” or the “Et lux perpetua,” are not coloratura tour-de-forces, but rather flow easily and without more than a modicum of difficulty. The typical French dotted rhythms abound, such as in the funereal graduale “Requiem aeternam,” and where one might expect counterpoint in places such as the Kyrie or the Lux aeterna, Campra uses instead slow dances, allowing for his sometimes intricate harmony to create the mood. The lovely, lyrical soprano duet of the latter, indeed, is far removed from the sentiment of the overall text, instead creating a moment of crystal clear musical light in their brief gavotte. The motet is likewise easygoing, moving sonorously without the frenetic energy that one might find in, say, Georg Philipp Telemann or Antonio Vivaldi. This is music to absorb the soul, not lecture to it. The final “Requiem aeternam,” a solemn hymn with a funereal tread, is a marvel.

The performance, taken apparently from a concert at Versailles devoted to Campra, is quite moving. Conductor Schneebeli knows how to provide the sonorous blend of chorus and string orchestra (augmented by a pair of flutes in certain movements such as the Agnus Dei, as well as the serpent reinforcing the continuo, an old French tradition of the time) so that the textures function well together. Tenor Jean-François Novelli has a flexible and effective voice; the ornamentation in the “Et lux perpetua” is extremely accurate and does what Campra desired, emphasizing the cadential points and important harmonies within the line. In the “In memoria” the equally flexible bass of Marc Labonnette provides a nice counterpoint to the walking bass. This is a fine recording, sensitive and careful but never venturing into the realms of too energetic or too commonplace. The Requiem, of course, has been recorded relatively often before, from John Eliot Gardiner’s 2007 version on Erato with the Monteverdi Choir and English Baroque Soloists all the way back to Philippe Herreweghe and the Chapelle Royale on Harmonia Mundi in 1992. I much prefer this recording for its sensitivity to Campra’s score. Having the motet “In convertendo” is also a plus.

FANFARE: Bertil van Boer
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Works on This Recording

Requiem Mass by André Campra
Conductor:  Olivier Schneebeli
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Les Pages et Les Chantres de Versailles
Period: Baroque 
Written: circa 1722; France 
In convertendo by André Campra
Conductor:  Olivier Schneebeli
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Les Pages et Les Chantres de Versailles

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