Rameau - Grands Motets
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Label: Chateau de Versailles Spectacles
Cat No: CVS052
Number of Discs: 1
Release Date: 14th January 2022
WorksDeus noster refugium
In convertendo Dominus
Quam dilecta tabernacula
ArtistsMailys de Villoutreys
Choeur & Orchestre Marguerite Louise
Recorded from 13 to 16 November 2020, and from 28 to 30 March 2021 at the Royal Chapel of the Château de Versailles
Booklet in French, English and German
1Quam dilecta tabernacula: 1. Quam dilecta tabernacula
2Quam dilecta tabernacula: 2. Cor meum et caro mea exulta verunt in Deum vivum
3Quam dilecta tabernacula: 3. Etenim passer invenit sibi domum
4Quam dilecta tabernacula: 4. Altera tua, Domine virtutum
5Quam dilecta tabernacula: 5. Beati, beati
6Quam dilecta tabernacula: 6. Domine Deus virtutum
7Quam dilecta tabernacula: 7. Domine virtutum
8In convertendo Dominus: 1. In convertendo Dominus
9In convertendo Dominus: 2. Tunc repletum est gaudio
10In convertendo Dominus: 3. Magnificat Dominus
11In convertendo Dominus: 4. Converte, Domine
12In convertendo Dominus: 5. Laudate nomen Dei cum cantico
13In convertendo Dominus: 6. Qui seminant in lacrymis
14In convertendo Dominus: 7. Euntes ibant et flebant
16Deus noster refugium: 1. Deus noster refugium
17Deus noster refugium: 2. Propterea Nnon timebimus
18Deus noster refugium: 3. Sonuerunt et turbatae sunt
19Deus noster refugium: 4. Fluminis impetus lætificat civitalem Dei
20Deus noster refugium: 5. Deus in medio ejus
21Deus noster refugium: 6. Conturbatæ sunt gentes
22Deus noster refugium: 7. Dominus virtutum nobiscum
23Deus noster refugium: 8. Venite, et videte
24Deus noster refugium: 9. Arcum conteret
25Deus noster refugium: 10. Vacate, et videte (reconstr. Jarry/Gautier)
26Deus noster refugium: 11. Dominus virtutul nobiscum
Rameau’s main duties in a string of appointments from 1702 onwards would have included organ improvisation and the training of choristers, but it is likely that he was also called upon to compose occasional liturgical works. Virtually all that survives of his sacred music output is contained on this new disc of his grands motets from the Château de Versailles Spectacles label, probably composed between 1712 and 1721. And it serves as proof that what it may lack in sheer quantity it more than makes up for in quality and inventiveness. Recorded under the glorious high arches of the Royal Chapel at Versailles (built for Louis XIV between 1699 and 1710), it brings together the combined forces of Gaétan Jarry’s ‘Marguerite Louise’ Chorus and Orchestra with a classy team of soloists who bring out all the barely-disguised theatrical character of these works.
Like most works in the grands motets repertoire, these are Psalm settings, and the disc opens with Quam dilecta tabernacula, which sets Psalm 84 (83 in the Vulgate version), ‘How amiable are thy tabernacles’. Its scoring is strongly coloured by the sweet-sounding transverse flutes that beckon in the listener at the opening, for the exquisite soprano solo sung with pure-toned stylishness by Maïlys de Villoutreys. Following a magnificent, admirably constructed choral fugue, the third verse brings more work for the flutes, now evoking the sparrow and turtledove for the haute-contre solo of Mathias Vidal. Although the woodwind instruments are rather distantly balanced, this does little to detract from the musical delights.
The catchiest number in this work, however, is the fifth verse solo for taille (a sort of baritenor) ‘Beati qui habitant in domo tua’, delivered with youthful exuberance by François Joron in partnership with the chorus. The imposing slow outer sections of the final chorus set off a lively central minuet.
Next up is In convertendo, which sets Ps 126 (125) ‘When the Lord turned again the captivity of Zion’. Vidal brings a fervid tone to his opening solo, verging (like so much of the music in these works) on the operatic. At Jarry’s lively speeds, the G major chorus ‘Tunc repletum est gaudio’ teeters on the brink of the chaotic in the reverberant Versailles acoustic, but nevertheless teems with joy, and there are some magnificently pungent moments from the bassoons. Another highlight is the celebrated soprano solo with chorus ‘Laudate nomen Dei’, coloured with a decidedly bucolic tone by three oboes and two bassoons: a double-reed quintet again typical of the extravagant sound-world of these works. The following trio is a memorable setting of the line ‘They that sow in tears shall reap in joy’, with angular unison leaps in the orchestral accompaniment, while the concluding chorus is a contrapuntal masterpiece with a chromatically descending first subject contrasting with a joyously ascending and leaping second section. The choral singing here matches the supreme artistry of the music, which has over the years frequently been compared with the best of J.S. Bach’s.
The shortest work here is Laboravi clamans, which sets verse 3 (‘I am weary of my crying: my throat is dried: mine eyes fail while I wait for my God’) from Ps 69 (68). Published in Rameau’s own Treatise on Harmony in 1722, it is all that remains of what we can surmise was a complete setting of the Psalm; it is a ‘scholarly’ fugue, whose three combinable subjects parallel the three clauses of the texts, yet whose artfulness is disguised by an outward beauty and conciseness.
The final work, Deus noster refugium, shows Rameau at his most theatrical. Probably composed in 1715, and much later revived for performance at the Parisian Concert spirituel, this is a setting of Psalm 46 (45) ‘God is our refuge and strength’. It is scored for four-part chorus (unlike the five-part textures of the other motets) but calls for no fewer than six soloists. The opening movement again spotlights Vidal’s febrile haute-contre, and the following trio (for two sopranos and bass, the latter the consistently impressive David Witczak) contains the first of several vividly pictorial episodes, with tumbling instrumental scales and tremoli depicting earthquakes and mountains ‘carried into the midst of the sea’. This pictorialism extends into the next verse, a splendid chorus with solos, graphically depicting the roaring of waves. The sixth verse is a remarkable lower-voice quartet for haute-contre, 2 tailles and bass, supported by just basso continuo.
The tenth verse, a soprano solo which survives only in incomplete form, has been reconstructed here by Jarry and Christophe Gautier; beguilingly sung by Maïlys de Villoutreys partnered by those exquisite flutes, it is most convincing and, leading to another imposing final chorus, sets the seal on a release that oozes Gallic character and stylishness. With few complete recordings of these magnificent works currently available, this handsome release from CVS is essential listening for all lovers of Baroque music.
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