Notes and Editorial Reviews
Michiko Takahashi (sop); Bernhard Hansky (bar); Le Tendre Amour (period instruments)
BRILLIANT 94288 (55:09)
René Drouard de Bousset (1703-1760) is one of those French composers who, during their lifetimes, were the latest sensations but after brief flashes of popularity pretty much vanished from history. A student of Nicolas Bernier, he was employed primarily as an organist at a Parisian parish church and had a career ahead of him as a normal musician. He appears to
have been a convert to Jansenism, which Fétis describes as a “bizarre” sect, but which really was one of several ascetic offshoot of mainstream Catholicism, at first tolerated but ultimately condemned and suppressed as heretical. Fétis also states that Bousset joined an extreme faction of this sect, whose members were noted for their extreme convulsions in the throes of religious ecstasy. More to the point, Bousset’s promising career as a composer appears to have been abruptly curtailed, he himself destroying the plates for both his
and two volumes of
that included drinking songs. In 1739 he found solace in two volumes of sacred cantatas, four out of the nine of which are presented in this disc.
It is not known where Bousset came up with his extra-liturgical texts, but two of these are paraphrases from Psalms 83 and 147. It may well be that he himself adapted them, but as they were a form of popular literary redaction during the reign of Louis XV, he may have used the works of others. The other two are more dramatic. The
Naufrage de Pharaon
, Bousset’s only work for bass voice, is based upon a retelling of the crossing of the Red Sea, while
outlines his supposed sacrifice of his son Isaac. The ensemble Le tendre amour previously recorded a third named cantata,
, back in 2008 on K617 as part of a series of unknown French sacred cantatas. This represents a sort of second installment, this one devoted to Bousset alone.
The works themselves are of varying content and depth. Of the two Psalm paraphrases, that based upon Psalm 83 is certainly the least expansive. It consists of a pair of arias prefaced by two recitatives, and is scored only for the voice and continuo. The opening aria, “O, mon Bien supreme,” has a lengthy and rather lovely continuo solo performed by the viola da gamba, which is quite deliberate and stately, even though it is a lament in a minor key. On the other hand, this cantata ends with a rather lively, perhaps even jaunty aria (I would say ecstatic, but given Bousset’s religious bent, that might be perhaps too ironic). The first begins with a brief prelude in which the flute and violin have a soft, delicate duet, weaving in and out of each other’s lines, and have phrases that sometimes conclude on descending suspensions. When the silken soprano of Michiko Takahashi joins in, she is like a third partner, blending ever so skillfully into the texture. The beginning of the
cantata, on the other hand, is titled simply “Nuit” and opens with turgid strings and dramatic use of tremolos as Pharaoh tosses in nightmares. When he finally gets to his first aria, a pair of violins mimic and echo each other’s lines, while the voice, performed resonantly by Bernhard Hansky, follows the bass line, reinforced by the gamba continuo. Bousset’s sense of religion can be a bit obtuse at times, especially when one hears a prayer of thanksgiving “Béis ton Dieu” done as a sprightly gavotte, or as in the final aria of
, more than a passing resemblance to a passacaglia. Elsewhere, such as the aria “Tout prêche sa magnificence,” we are in the very baroque world of Handel, the music here being quite conservative in terms of style.
The group itself performs things admirably. As noted, both Hansky and Takahashi blend nicely with their instrumental counterparts, here a trio of violin, flute, and oboe. The only glitch I found was that in some of the recitatives Takahashi could be a bit shrill and, in the Psalm 147 paraphrase’s first aria, her intonation is not always secure in relation to her accompaniment. The continuo seems to be dominated by Lixsania Fernández’s rather forceful gamba playing, and there were times when I was barely able to make out the harpsichord that supported her. But this may well be the nature of the beast, especially in the Psalm 83 paraphrase, where the line is more soloistic for the gamba. I like the tempos, and ensemble, which bring a rather nice sense of drama to these cantatas. The only other issue was the same one that seems to dog Brilliant Classics: no text is provided in the booklet (one has to find it online, but there is no indication I could see that would point the reader in this direction). Still, these works are well performed and are a good addition to any collection that includes the chamber cantatas from the period of the waning of the
FANFARE: Bertil van Boer
Works on This Recording
Abraham by René Drouard de Bousset
Le Tendre Amour
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