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Label: Harmonia Mundi
Cat No: HMU807588
Number of Discs: 1
Release Date: 28th July 2014
WorksSonate en trio, SDB221
Symphonie pour le Graduel, SDB228
Symphonie pour le Graduel, SDB229
Le Reniement de Saint Pierre, H424
Sacrificium Abrahae, H402
ArtistsLa Nuova Musica
David Bates leads La Nuova Musica in 'Sacrifices', a programme of intensely dramatic oratorios from the mid Baroque.
Three poignant tales of denial and sacrifice: St Peter's denial of Christ, Abraham's [narrowly averted] sacrifice of his son Isaac, and the Old Testament story of Jepthe, the hero commander who, before leading the Israelites into battle against the Ammonites, vows to God that if he is victorious, he will sacrifice the first living thing he meets upon his return. Unfortunately it is his darling daughter, who dances out to greet him with cymbals and flutes. Jepthe must honour his vow...
In a dramatic lament, the daughter [she is never named] asks the mountains to bewail her fate - they answer in echoes. This is followed by one of the most moving choruses in all 17th C music. Belgian soprano Sophie Juncker is the daughter [and one to watch].
La Nuova Musica is established in the UK, with regular appearances at the London Handel, the Spitalfields and Aldeburgh International festivals, and has achieved worldwide recognition and outreach through a five-record deal with harmonia mundi USA. Its debut recording for the label, released in March 2012, a world premiere on CD of the 1712 version of Handel’s 'Il pastor Fido', was proclaimed as the arrival of “an exceptionally talented young British ensemble” (Opera magazine).
The Europadisc Review
The young British ensemble La Nuova Musica (under its director David Bates) has already made a name for itself with its first two discs on Harmonia Mundi in music by Handel and Vivaldi. Now in this latest recording they delve back further, to the mid-Baroque, and works by Giacomo Carissimi (1605–1674) and Marc-Antoine Charpentier (1643–1704). Carissimi spent almost his entire career as maestro di cappella of the Collegio Germanico, a Jesuit seminary in Rome, and he was a key figure in the early development of the Baroque oratorio. His style in turn influenced that of Charpentier, who studied with Carissimi in the late 1660s before returning to France, and whose music combined French grace and Italianate flair.
La Nuova Musica's programme is a typically thoughtful and engaging one, performed with a characteristically wide expressive range, and incorporating the very best of modern insight into period performance. Two oratorios by Charpentier are presented alongside one by Carissimi, on biblical subjects from the Old and New Testaments revolving around the idea of sacrifice. Each is preceded by instrumental music from the pen of Sébastien de Brossard, now better remembered for his theoretical writings, but whose compositions show attractiveness, fluency and invention. They make ideal foils for the emotional turbulence of the oratorios themselves.
Charpentier's Le Reniement de Saint Pierre tells the gospel story of Peter's denial of Christ. The narrative will be familiar to many listeners from Bach's St Matthew Passion, but Charpentier's setting is more intimate and concentrated, and the pacing brisker, dominated by arioso-like recitatives. The narration is taken at times by a solo singer, at others by an ensemble of voices – a feature common to all three works. The highlight is the meltingly beautiful closing chorus (track 4), which dwells on the words 'flevit amare' ([and] he wept bitterly) with a succession of intense dissonant suspensions.
Sacrificium Abrahae (Abraham's Sacrifice) is a more substantial work that recounts the great Old Testament story of Abraham's willingness to sacrifice to God his only son, Isaac. At the last moment, Abraham's hand is stayed as he has demonstrated his obedience before the Lord. This performance brings out the latent drama as the action reaches its climax; as a result the final scene of rejoicing is all the more cathartic. The roles of Abraham and Isaac are both tenors, but there is sufficient contrast here between Simon Wall and Nicholas Scott that no confusion arises, even when the characters sing simultaneously. As in Le Reniement de Saint Pierre, Gallic pronunciation is adopted for the Latin text.
Another Old Testament story provides the subject matter for Carissimi's Historia di Jephte. The account of the Israelite leader who promises to sacrifice 'whatsoever first cometh forth of the doors of my house to meet me' if God will grant him victory over the Ammonites offers the widest range of emotions to both composer and performers. Here it is given an intensity that is truly operatic in scope, from the vivid battle music as Jephthah triumphs over his enemies, through the delightful instrumental evocation of 'timbrels and cymbals' as his daughter rushes to greet him, to her heart-rending lament and the powerfully moving closing chorus. The stand-out performance here is soprano Sophie Junker's exquisitely poignant characterisation of Jephthah's daughter, though tenor Robert Murray as her father is also fully worthy of mention. For lovers of Baroque music, this is about as good as it gets.
The booklet notes by Gawain Glenton are exceptionally clear and informative, and there are full texts and translations. In sum, the price of the disc is worth it for the Carissimi alone; the couplings make it truly irresistible!
1de Brossard - Symphonie pour le Graduel SDB229
2Charpentier - Le Reniement de Saint Pierre (I)
3Charpentier - Le Reniement de Saint Pierre (II)
4Charpentier - Le Reniement de Saint Pierre (III)
5de Brossard - Symphonie pour le Graduel SDB228
6Charpentier - Sacrificium Abrahae, H402 (I)
7Charpentier - Sacrificium Abrahae, H402 (II)
8Charpentier - Sacrificium Abrahae, H402 (III)
9Charpentier - Sacrificium Abrahae, H402 (IV)
10de Brossard - Sonate en trio SDB221 (I)
11de Brossard - Sonate en trio SDB221 (II)
12de Brossard - Sonate en trio SDB221 (III)
13de Brossard - Sonate en trio SDB221 (IV)
14de Brossard - Sonate en trio SDB221 (V)
15Carissimi - Historia di Jephte (I)
16Carissimi - Historia di Jephte (II)
17Carissimi - Historia di Jephte (III)
18Carissimi - Historia di Jephte (IV)
19Carissimi - Historia di Jephte (V)
20Carissimi - Historia di Jephte (VI)
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