Le Concert Spirituel perform Requiems by Cherubini & Plantade

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COMPOSERS: Cherubini,Plantade
LABELS: Alpha
ALBUM TITLE: Cherubini * Plantade
WORKS: Cherubini: Requiem in C minor; Plantade: Messe des morts in D minor
PERFORMER: Le Concert Spirituel/Hervé Niquet
CATALOGUE NO: ALPHA 251

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After the restoration of the French monarchy in 1815, the remains of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette were removed from their common grave and reinterred at the Basilica of St Denis in Paris. Further restitution was made to the late monarch in the form of a Requiem Mass, performed on 21 January 1816. Though some sources suggest that he may have worked on it earlier, most commentators agree that Cherubini’s C minor Requiem (his first of two) was commissioned for this memorial service. Seven years later, on the 30th anniversary of the execution of Marie-Antoinette, a Requiem almost certainly composed earlier by Cherubini’s now forgotten contemporary Charles-Henri Plantade (1764-1839) was similarly chosen to honour her memory.

Named after an 18th-century Parisian concert-giving institution, Hervé Niquet’s historically informed ensemble Le Concert Spirituel brings the two pieces together here, recorded in the ideal acoustic of the Chapelle Royale at Versailles, which emphasises the carefully designed sonic qualities of both works as well as those of Niquet’s finely disciplined choir and excellent orchestra. Of the two scores, the Cherubini is the masterpiece; this outstanding account brings out its dignity and restraint as well as its occasional passages of intense drama. More old-fashioned in approach – the focus of the composer’s style is the classical heritage of pre-Revolutionary times – Plantade’s work, too, is respectfully sombre while also containing some striking invention, notably a thrilling Dies Irae based on the ancient plainsong melody subsequently used by many composers, starting with Berlioz and Meyerbeer.

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George Hall