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Bourgeois: Les Sirenes - Cantatas / Carolyn Sampson

Bourgeois / Concert Lorrain / Sampson
Release Date: 05/29/2012 
Label:  Carus   Catalog #: 83374   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Thomas-Louis Bourgeois
Performer:  Carolyn Sampson
Conductor:  Anne-Catherine Bucher
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Le Concert Lorrain
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 12 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews



BOURGEOIS Les Sirènes. Borée. Zéphire et Flore. Hippomène. Psiché Carolyn Sampson (sop); Concert Lorrain CARUS 83.374 (72:40 Text and Translation)


This CD, which bears the title Les Sirènes, is a collection of early 18th-century cantatas by Thomas-Louis Bourgeois (1676–1750), a French composer once highly regarded who has since been relegated to the province of academia. At first Read more listen the music, being in the French style, sounds subtler and terser in melodic construction than its Italian cousins. What also strikes the ear is the continuously vibratoless playing of the winds and strings (which, I need not point out, is historically wrong) behind the heady, vibrant voice of the soprano.


This disparity of vibrato may put some listeners off. Carolyn Sampson has a very sweet and well-controlled little voice, and is a subtle and interesting interpreter, but although there certainly were singers in the 18th century who had voices as vibrant as hers, the refusal of the accompanying musicians to use vibrato on sustained notes for expressive purposes rather defeats the attempt at stylistic integrity. Had they chosen to play the music in its proper style, matters would have been less open to question from a musicohistoric perspective.


That being said, both the music and its performance—technical disparities aside—are extremely fine. Sampson has the gift of being able to sing in almost a semi- parlando style—quintessentially French—and thus is able to consistently interpret the meaning of words while maintaining a proper vocal line. She has the ability to occasionally drain the voice of vibrato on certain sustained notes. The florid section of the opening cantata, Les Sirènes, revolves around the words “Flee, flee, remove yourselves from the a great peril that only seems amicable; it is a hundred times more dreadful than the winds and fleets ranged against us.” Sampson sings this with an exceptional command of her fiorature, so much so that she absorbs it into the articulation of the words. It is a stunning achievement that goes to show how much a truly sensitive and intelligent artist can do with a voice of very modest proportions.


But Sampson is consistently excellent throughout this disc. All five works, which are premiere recordings, are taken from Bourgeois’s two volumes of cantatas that remained in print for 40 or more years. He may well be ignored today, but in his lifetime and beyond he was very highly thought-of as a composer of such works.


In addition to the subtle expression of the music, one is struck by Bourgeois’s consistently imaginative melodic construction and use of accompaniment (listen, particularly, to the exceptional bird imitations in the aria from Zéphire et Flore, “Philomelle revient”). This is quite an accomplishment for a composer who began his artistic life as a singer (a haute-contre or high tenor) who was, in fact, appointed to the Paris Opera in 1708, the year of these first cantatas. Of course, I am judging this by the very fine performances of Sampson; in the hands of a lesser artist (and, yes, a less exciting or vibrant group of accompanists), it’s quite possible that this music would sound flat, uninspired, and uninspiring. Quite possibly, the excellence of Le Concert Lorrain’s style stems from its founder, harpsichordist Anne-Catherine Bucher, who studied with Michèle Dévérité and Robert Kohnen (among others) and attended master classes with Gustav Leonhardt. I can occasionally overlook the lack of vibrato because of this group’s excellence in phrasing and use of rhythmic accents.


Indeed, if there is any criticism one can make of this music, it is that after a while many of the cantata movements begin to sound like ones you’ve already heard, giving a sense of musical déjà vu. Despite his imagination in melodic construction and other elements, Bourgeois (like every other composer of his time, Handel and Bach included) knew when he had a hit, and so was careful to include elements of that music in future productions. Nevertheless, there is more than enough variety here to please almost any lover of Baroque music and even some of you who tend to be suspicious of its artificialities. Highly recommended.


FANFARE: Lynn René Bayley
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Works on This Recording

1. Les Sirènes by Thomas-Louis Bourgeois
Performer:  Carolyn Sampson (Soprano)
Conductor:  Anne-Catherine Bucher
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Le Concert Lorrain
Period: Baroque 
Written: France 
2. Borée by Thomas-Louis Bourgeois
Performer:  Carolyn Sampson (Soprano)
Conductor:  Anne-Catherine Bucher
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Le Concert Lorrain
Period: Baroque 
Written: France 
3. Zéphire et Flore by Thomas-Louis Bourgeois
Performer:  Carolyn Sampson (Soprano)
Conductor:  Anne-Catherine Bucher
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Le Concert Lorrain
Period: Baroque 
Written: France 
4. Hippomène by Thomas-Louis Bourgeois
Performer:  Carolyn Sampson (Soprano)
Conductor:  Anne-Catherine Bucher
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Le Concert Lorrain
5. Psiché by Thomas-Louis Bourgeois
Performer:  Carolyn Sampson (Soprano)
Conductor:  Anne-Catherine Bucher
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Le Concert Lorrain

Sound Samples

Les Sirenes: Prelude
Les Sirenes: Recitative: Apres avoir vaincu les peuples
Les Sirenes: Lentement et Tendrement: L'amour
Les Sirenes: Recitative: La flotte d'Ulisse charmee
Les Sirenes: Vivement: Fuyes, fuyes eloignes-vous
Les Sirenes: Recitative: Par ces sages conseils
Les Sirenes: Gratieusement: Belles dans vos yeux
Boree: Recitative: Dans les climats glaces
Boree: Gratieusement: Eole dans son vaste empire
Boree: Recitative: Quand indigne
Boree: Vivement et tres viste: Un orage affreux
Boree: Recitative: C'est ainsi que exercoit
Boree: Recitative: Dans ce moment
Boree: Gratieusement et marque: Du couchant
Zephire et Flore: Prelude: Gravement
Zephire et Flore: Recitative: L'Astre du jour brillant
Zephire et Flore: Gracieusement: Prevenez la saison nouvelle
Zephire et Flore: Recitative: Pour reparer les tourmens
Zephire et Flore: Gayment: Triomphez, Dieu du jour
Zephire et Flore: Recitative: Tout succede a mes voeux
Zephire et Flore: Gracieusement: Philomelle revient
Zephire et Flore: Recitative: L'amour se fait sentir a tout
Zephire et Flore: Gayment: Mon amant revient en ce jour
Hippomene: Recitative: Aux bords d'une onde fugitive
Hippomene: Gayment: Les fleurs s'empressent d'eclore
Hippomene: Recitative: La Mere des amours protege
Hippomene: Gayment et gracieusement: Couronne tes feux par la gloire
Hippomene: Recitative: anime
Hippomene: Gayment: Deja loin de la barriere
Hippomene: Recitative: lasse d'une cours
Hippomene: Gayment et gracieusement: Quand l'amour nous est favorable
Psiche: Recitative: Dans ce palais delicieux
Psiche: Air, gayment et gracieusement: L'amour se soumet a vos charmes
Psiche: Recitative: Mais helas! quel bonheur
Psiche: Air, gracieusement: Connoissez mieux les lois de l'amoureux empire
Psiche: Recitative: par ce refus
Psiche: Gravement et tendrement: Revenez cher amant puis-je vivre sans vous?
Psiche: Recitative: Dans ses malheurs, conserve l'esperance
Psiche: Gayment: Amans songez a vous deffendre

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