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WORKS: Les litanies de la vierge – sacred music from the household of Philipe d’Anjou
PERFORMER: Ensemble Dumont/Peter Bennett
Henry Dumont was eventually one of Louis XIV’s ‘sous-maîtres’ in charge of sacred music at Versailles. He made an important contribution to the ‘grand motet’ but was equally effective in the sphere of smaller-scale pieces. Though the Litanies de la vierge provide the centrepiece of an attractively conceived programme, there are also miscellaneous vocal and instrumental items from other collections by Dumont as well as four anonymous motets from a manuscript assembled by Sébastien de Brossard. Performances by the Ensemble Dumont, with director Peter Bennett, are excellent, as is the recorded sound.


Brossard, as well as being a collector and lexicographer, was also an able composer, and his Leçons des morts are performed with stylistic fluency by soprano Véronique Gens, countertenor Gérard Lesne and his ensemble Il Seminario Musicale. This music is by no means all as sombre as its title would imply, offering the listener an evenly balanced outlook of hope and despair. In addition to these pieces, with passages of affecting two-part vocal writing, the programme includes a Dialogue between God and the Soul, somewhat in the manner of an Italian ‘historia’ and a Trio Sonata for two violins and continuo.


Marie-Claire Alain has recorded both of Couperin’s majestic Organ Masses in the past, but in her new release of the Parish Mass she evokes a much stronger sense of occasion by integrating it with sections of Gregorian chant. The organ of Poitiers Cathedral is a magnificent-sounding Clicquot instrument. Nicholas Anderson