Clerambault: Motets pour Saint-Sulpice

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COMPOSERS: Clerambault
LABELS: Virgin Veritas
WORKS: Motets pour Saint-Sulpice
PERFORMER: Gérard Lesne (alto), Mark Padmore (tenor), Josep-Miquel Ramon i Monzó (bass); Il Seminario Musicale
CATALOGUE NO: VC 5 45415 2
Apart from a single disc of motets recorded in 1993, Clérambault’s 100 pieces in this genre are barely known. The nine here are all for the characteristically French male ensemble, haute-contre, taille and basse, coloured distinctively by French Latin pronunciation – ‘u’ as in ‘tu’, sibilant ‘c’, soft ‘g’. Recorded sound is a little disappointing, though. Perhaps to clarify detail in the cavernous-sounding acoustic of Notre-Dame du Liban in Paris, voices are close, the perspective of performers themselves rather than congregation.

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The music is beautiful, especially the sensuous Marian motets. Lesne and continuo create a jaunty celebration of the Virgin as the ‘Morning Star’. Salve regina, with gentle, stylish inegalité, begins as a similarly dancing address to the Virgin before a chaconne of gaunt detached chords below pleading voices. O deliciis affluens opens with almost every note bedecked with imaginative ornament – the three singers are experienced hands at this, as are Il Seminario Musicale, providing flute, two violins (a touch raw in unison) and continuo.

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Thanks to the editing team of scholars working in the Centre de Musique Baroque de Versailles, Clérambault, known hitherto principally for his organ works, is revealed as composer of a wealth of charming and intimate vocal music. George Pratt