ClerambaultCollin de BlamontCourbois

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COMPOSERS: ClerambaultCollin de BlamontCourbois
ALBUM TITLE: Agnes Mellon
WORKS: Leandre et Hero; Medee
PERFORMER: Agnes Mellon, Barcarole
This fine disc might have been even finer a few years ago. Agnès Mellon, now 47, has long been at the top of her field – too long? The telltale signs of wear colour her once purer soprano: over-wide vibrato, harsh partials, an obtrusive passage between head and chest registers. But nothing can take away from the sheer intelligence and sensitivity of her vocal acting.


Between, roughly, 1706 and 1730, Paris’s craze for what were almost domestic operas combined the crispness of the Italian cantata with French declamation – just what Mellon does so well. You’ll be hard pressed to find a band more mellifluous than Barcarole, skilfully presented in an unusual acoustic that’s clear if slightly over-generous. And, as in all Alpha productions, notes and translations are excellent.


Unfortunately, this is now a very crowded field: on my own shelves, I found three Léandres and two Médées – and there are more. Not so much Courbois or Collin de Blamont knocking about, but both well worth hearing alongside Clérambault, who still ranks top in this genre. But if it’s new to you, let Marc Minkowski’s high-octane clutch of cantatas on DG Archiv be your first guide. Nick Morgan