WORKS: Miserere à voix seule
PERFORMER: Claire Lefilliâtre (voice), Eugène Green (speaker); Le Poème Harmonique/Vincent Dumestre
CATALOGUE NO: 030 (distr. www.alpha-prod.com)
How inspired to couple Lamentations by one of the leading composers of late 17th-century France with a sermon by one of the most influential divines of the age. We’ve seen Baroque music illuminated by contemporary dance, gesture, costume and design. Now rhetoric has its turn, long after it was revealed as a foundation of Baroque music by, notably, Nikolaus Harnoncourt. Bossuet’s ‘Sermon on Death’, delivered before Louis XIV in 1662, launches a promised series, ‘Voce Umana’, devoted to historic texts: well, besides reminding me what a miserable mortal I am, it triumphantly vindicates Alpha’s punt. It’s delivered with phenomenal conviction and control by Eugène Green, sustaining sonorously for nearly an hour in archaic French – don’t worry, it’s excellently translated.
But after lavishing such care on deluxe presentation and absorbing notes, and brilliantly bringing Bossuet back to life, Alpha loses the plot with Lalande. No complaints about Le Poème Harmonique’s imaginative accompaniment; but Claire Lefilliâtre has one of those Montserrat Figueras-type voices which only Figueras knows how to use: attractive but completely out of place here. Hardly a note starts and ends at the same pitch, while runs and ornaments sound hand-carved by an authentic instrument – the adze. Like the one that was used for the audible edit, less than four minutes in? Nick Morgan