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Notes and Editorial Reviews
Quite stunning in all respects!
François Couperin often known as
Couperin le Grand was a French baroque composer born in Paris in 1668. He lived and worked in the city until his death in 1733. Couperin in 1693 was appointed organist at the Royal Chapel to the Bourbon monarch Louis XIV and later in 1717 became organist and composer to the Royal Court.
A renowned keyboard player in his day Couperin’s high standing today is based on his compositions for keyboard and chamber ensemble. He did however write a body of sacred choral music some of which can be heard here. This recording contains the Couperin motets known as
petit motets. They exist in manuscript form and were composed it
seems sometime after 1689. In these Couperin uses both biblical and sacred Latin texts by Pierre Portes. The upper string parts of three of the motets:
Ornate aras and
Exultent superi have been reconstructed by Edward Higginbottom to make them performable.
In view of his role at the Royal Court it can be presumed that a number of Couperin’s sacred choral works formed part of the repertory at the Royal Chapel. According to Pierre Perrin in his
Cantita pro Capelle Regis (1665) a
petit motet with an appropriate text was sung in the Royal Mass at the Elevation (the point when the bread and wine are consecration) typically a
O misterium ineffabile and
Tantun ergo. Some of the
petit motets with texts not quite as relevant to the consecration such as the
Resonent organa and
Domine salvum fac Regem may have served a different liturgical purpose. The
petit motets recorded here, copied for the library of the
Comte de Toulouse Louis Alexandre de Bourbon, have a rather convoluted history. This is explained in Edward Higginbottom’s booklet notes.
For these Couperin
petit motets Higginbottom uses seven soloists selected from the Choir of New College Oxford with voice-types felt to be most appropriate to this period. Higginbottom has chosen Inigo Jones aged eleven and thirteen year old Jonty Ward for the
dessus (boy soprano) parts; Guy Cutting the single
haute-contre (high tenor); Nick Pritchard the single
basse-taille (baritone) and
basse (bass) parts sung by George Coltart, Tom Edwards and Duncan Saunderson. Collegium Novum are a period instrument ensemble specially formed to accompany the New College Choir. Rodolfo Richter and Bojan Cicic play violins; Susanne Heinrich a
basse de viole with Edward Higginbottom on organ.
Guy Cutting (
haute-contre) the soloist in
Elevation à voix seule et Symphonie is effortlessly controlled and displays a splendid tone throughout this nine minute long score. Praising the Lord for his many gifts in
Lauda Sion Salvatorem.
Elevation à 2 the unsullied boy soprano voices of Jonty Ward and Inigo Jones blend remarkably well to provide a most affecting experience. Baritone Nick Pritchard and basses Tom Edwards and Duncan Saunderson in
O Domine quia refugium.
Precatio ad Deum à 3 sing with a dark coloration that is richly expressive. George Coltart the solo bass in
Ad te levavi oculos meos, à voix seule et symphonie beseeching God for mercy is in remarkable voice. The most memorable and immediately rewarding work here is
Domine salvum fac Regem à 2. This is gloriously sung by boy soprano Jonty Ward and bass George Coltart who together create a mystical quality. Throughout the outstanding instrumental support from Collegium Novum is especially sensitive.
These are scrupulously prepared performances using soloists who demonstrate extraordinary assurance. Particularly impressive is their vocal sonority and unity. They evince careful regard for the sacred texts and their singing is reverential. Individual vocal character is a quality that is often sacrificed by certain choral groups in their endeavour to achieve pin-point precision; not so here.
The crystal clear and superbly balanced sound quality is as pleasing as I have heard in a church acoustic. It would be hard to imagine a more gratifying recording of these scores. In all respects this Novum release is quite stunning!
-- Michael Cookson, MusicWeb International
Works on This Recording
O Domine quia refugiam, motet for 3 voices & continuo by François Couperin
Nick [Tenor Vocal] Pritchard (),
Tom Edwards (),
Duncan Saunderson (),
Edward Higginbottom (Organ)
Venue: St Michael's Church, Summertown, Oxford,
Length: 7 Minutes 25 Secs.
Exultent superi "Motet for Saint Suzanne" by François Couperin
George Coltart (),
Guy Cutting ()
Collegium Novum (England)
Written: 1679-1680; France
Venue: St Michael's Church, Summertown, Oxford,
Length: 7 Minutes 59 Secs.
Average Customer Review: ( 1 Customer Review )
Minor repertoire, but worth hearing August 28, 2013
By Jim D. See All My Reviews
"This recording of motets by the French keyboard master Couperin collects some virtually forgotten music, and makes it live again in elegant performances. Nothing here is in the grand manner--solo voices and single instruments once performed a sort of sacred concert in the royal chapels while the priest said the Mass--but the result is most agreeable. Though some of the instrumental parts have been lost over the years, director Edward Higginbottom recreates their music in appropriate style. English trebles often do not have a very solid quality when singing solo (though together, they produce that amazing choral sound), but the two here are quite accomplished. Likewise, Guy Cutting copes with the punishingly high tessitura of the tenor part with every appearance of ease. The basses are a little light at the bottom, if one wants to quibble. Good sound and interesting booklet notes (with texts): well worth a listen."