André Campra is another one of those baroque composers whose reputation has been overshadowed by more famous compatriots – in his case Jean-Baptiste Lully, Louis Grabu, and Jean-Philippe Rameau. It's a shame because his music is really rather wonderful. He was a highly talented and skilful composer equally at home composing operas and religious music. His requiem is wonderful with its operatic touches that serve to highlight the solemn but never sombre sincerity that is entirely suitable to the occasion. It was commissioned for a memorial service for the Archbishop of Paris and is score for a "Grand Chœur" a 2–3 voice "Petit Chœur", three soloists with instrumental accompaniment from a "Symphonie".
It's a piece of music that I love whether it's the wonderful calm forward movement of the Introitus and the way the choir comes in or the "te decet" solo and the male trio that follows it or the wonderfully operatic Kyrie with its glorious soaring soprano lines. A sense of public theatre of a momentous occasion being acted out is very present throughout the entire Mass and first makes itself particularly felt at the Gradual which feel almost like a set piece scene complete with aria and choral sections. The Offertory with its male voice trio and choral work is a very intense but superbly balanced piece of musical writing and is the hinge. Listen to what happens at "ne absorbeat eas Tartarus, ne cadant in obscurum" (lest the bowels of Hell engulf them, lest they fall into darkness) the whole mood changes becoming ever darker, more dramatic, and frantic until suddenly light bursts forth and conquers the darkness at "sed signifer sanctus Michael representet" (but let Michael, thy sacred standard-bearer) you can almost see the Archangels flaming sword banishing the darkness. The mood becomes ever lighter with the Sanctus being positively dainty and I love how Capra uses the upper voices antiphonally. I also very much like how he introduces the Hosanna using the soloist and trio before allowing the choir to cut loose. He brings us down a bit at the Agnus Dei whose contemplative mood sets the scene for the peaceful and hopeful tone of the Post-Communion. It's performed below by Les Talens Lyriques, conducted by Christophe Rousset. Enjoy :-)
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