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COMPOSERS: Thomas-Louis Bourgeois
ALBUM TITLE: bourgeois Les Sirènes
WORKS: Les Sirènes; Borée; Zéphire et Flore; Hippomène; Psiché
PERFORMER: Carolyn Sampson (soprano); Le Concert Lorraine/Anne-Catherine Bucher


The French Baroque continues to reveal unexpected treasures. Thomas-Louis Bourgeois made his name as a singer and composer at the opera in Paris in the early 18th century, but his wayward nature took him to other centres in France, notably Strasbourg where he worked as choirmaster in the cathedral. These three cantatas display a command of French sensibility spiced by the new-found Parisian enthusiasm for the Italian style, heard to best effect in the faster movements. If Bourgeois lacks the melodic inventiveness of Rameau or Mondonville, his dramatic instincts are sound and always serve the Classical texts he sets to good effect, most notably in the ‘storm’ aria from the cantata Borée.

These excellently recorded performances display enormous expertise. Accompanying bass parts are superbly characterised and the continuo group, comprising lute and harpsichord, is always compellingly alert. But all this virtue would be nothing without Carolyn Sampson’s magnificent singing. She brings astonishing flexibility to ornamentation and her subtle use of vibrato vastly enhances the dramatic effect of the more torrid passages. Crucially, she understands the scale of these pieces: hers are not grand-standing operatic performances; they show true respect for the chamber-like nature of these delightful cantatas.


Jan Smaczny