Boismortier: Daphnis et Chloé

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COMPOSERS: Boismortier
LABELS: Glossa
WORKS: Daphnis et Chloé
PERFORMER: Gaëlle Méchaly, Marie-Louise Duthoit, François-Nicolas Geslot, Till Fechner, Alain Buet; Le Concert Spirituel/Hervé Niquet
Hervé Niquet and his ensemble are single-handedly revealing Boismortier, a contemporary of Rameau, as a composer whose gifts extended beyond the many charming sonatas, mainly for flute, for which he is chiefly known. Their recent recording of his comic ballet Don Quichotte chez la duchesse (Naxos) discovered a composer full of wit and with an ability for sharp character portrayal. First performed at the Paris Opéra in 1743, it was followed, four years later, by the more extended Daphnis et Chloé, a pastorale in three acts with a prologue. This is the first recording of the piece, though half a century ago several dances from the opera appeared on LP.


The text of Daphnis et Chloé, by the 20-year-old Pierre Laujon, is loosely based on versions of the Classical legend. The eponymous lovers have been separated by misfortune and mischief and, with the aid of Amour and a bevy of co-operative nymphs, they are reunited early in Act II. Subsequent events leading to wedding celebrations afford Boismortier ample opportunity to exercise his alluring talent in the sphere of melodious airs and evocative dances.


The most accomplished singing, fresh and youthful-sounding, is provided by Gaëlle Méchaly, whose voice has enlivened many other projects under William Christie. The remainder of the casting is strong, though a little less dependable; the orchestral playing is excellent. This is a delightful score by a somewhat underrated composer and it is well deserving of a revival. Only the hardest of hearts will be able to resist the sequence of musettes, airs, rondeaux and tambourins contained in Act II, Daphnis’s plaintive A major air with which Act III begins and Chloé’s galant cantatille ‘Vole amour’. Nicholas Anderson