Lalande: Te Deum laudamus; Panis angelicus; La grande pièce royale; Venite, exultemus

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LABELS: Hyperion
WORKS: Te Deum laudamus; Panis angelicus; La grande pièce royale; Venite, exultemus
PERFORMER: Carolyn Sampson, Natalie Clifton-Griffith (soprano), James Gilchrist, Paul Agnew (tenor), Jonathan Gunthorpe, James Mustard (bass); Ex Cathedra/Jeffrey Skidmore
Michel-Richard de Lalande, who from 1683 served Louis XIV as a court composer, is both a significant composer in his own right and an important transitional figure. His music effectively bridges the gulf between the grandiose manner of Lully and the vigorous, fresh counterpoint of early Handel. Listen to the second verse of the Venite for the perfect illustration. Both this piece and the Te Deum of 1684 offer splendour and charm in equal quantities, with some delectable writing for solo voices. Jeffrey Skidmore and the orchestra and choir – largish at 34 voices but immaculately disciplined – of Ex Cathedra perform these works stylishly, executing decorations with a gentle, almost casual swagger and responding to the shape and stress of phrase as if to the Gallic manner born. The soloists, an impressive line-up of Baroque specialists, more than live up to their reputations, with both tenors making particularly attractive contributions. Separating these two large works are a pair of shorter pieces: the delectable Panis angelicus, sung by Carolyn Sampson and with Rachel Brown providing a limpid flute obbligato, and a work that rejoices in the modest title of La grande pièce royale, a six-movement instrumental suite ‘often demanded by the king’ in which a prominent solo bassoon part is beautifully played by Mike Brain. Stephen Pettitt