WORKS: Grands motets: Exaudiat te Dominus; O dulcissime Domine, Benedictus, Laudate pueri Dominum
PERFORMER: Le Concert Spirituel/Hervé Niquet
CATALOGUE NO: 8.554399
There is a certain poetic justice in the relative standing of Lully and Charpentier in the CD catalogue these days: the former just reaches two columns, while the latter bulges beyond six. Profoundly political in the hothouse environment of the court of Louis XIV, and more than a touch paranoid, Lully did much damage to Charpentier’s career. And yet, as this handsomely assembled issue reveals, Lully had outstanding talent, if not Charpentier’s genius.
The large-scale Grands motets, composed for the grander services of Louis XIV’s royal chapel, and the more intimate Petits motets, display Lully’s keen melodic instinct and heady use of voices. Lully’s schooling in writing for the theatre often results in some grippingly dramatic episodes, notably the last two movements of Exaudiat te Dominus with their blend of sincere petition and near balletic rejoicing. At times the faster movements have a relentless quality, but given the performers’ sympathy with this repertoire, this rarely obtrudes; their passion and enthusiasm continually transcend the music’s tendency to purr along with assurance rather than depth. The results they achieve are bracing and always graceful, and if overall the music lacks the refinement of Lalande or the pathos of Charpentier, it is still immensely rewarding. Jan Smaczny