LABELS: Hyperion Helios
WORKS: De profundis; Venite, exultemus; Regna terrae
PERFORMER: Gillian Fisher (soprano), Charles Daniels (countertenor), Stephen Varcoe (bass); Choir of New College, Oxford, London Baroque/Edward Higginbottom (harpsichord)
CATALOGUE NO: CDH 55038 Reissue (1987)
When churches were closed by clerical ordinance on special feast days, Parisians of the mid-18th century went instead to Concerts Spirituels of music ranging from grand motets to intimate chamber music. Mondonville’s contributions are exceptional for their unusual timbral mix. They include a dozen Pièces de clavecin avec voix ou violon, the harpsichord parts designed not as continuo infill, but fully self-sufficient, while nonetheless accompanying violin and soprano soloists. Three of them here create a rare and arresting soundscape.
Gillian Fisher’s pristine yet subtly expressive quality is glorious in the two large-scale motets. ‘Venite, exultemus’ spans a wide range of vividly explicit emotions. Fisher and flautist Lisa Beznosiuk ‘weep before the Lord’ in exquisitely plaintive appoggiaturas; Charles Daniels’s true haute-contre voice floats seamlessly within the register shared by tenor and alto, and survives almost unscathed the virtuosic demands of ‘swearing in wrath’ – as does New College Choir in the sparkling final Gloria. The penitential opening of ‘De profundis’ creates a more sombre mood as the choir expands from ethereal trebles to all-enveloping five-part sonority before a startling unison cry ‘out of the deep’.
Spacious recorded sound with deep perspective adds a rich bloom to Mondonville’s inventive colours, captured 13 years ago for this welcome reissue. George Pratt