Montéclair: Jephté

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COMPOSERS: Montéclair
LABELS: Harmonia Mundi
WORKS: Jephté
PERFORMER: Jacques Bona, Sophie Daneman, Claire Brua, Nicolas Rivenq, Mark Padmore; Les Arts Florissants/William Christie
CATALOGUE NO: HMX 2901424-25 Reissue
As this valuable reissue shows, Michel Pignolet de Montéclair (1667-1737) is an important link between Lully and Rameau in the story of French opera. Like Rameau, he came to opera late, and Jephté, the second of just two works he composed for the Paris Opéra, was written when he was 65. Montéclair also worked as a teacher (including of Couperin’s daughters) and theorist, but it was his 38-year service as basse de viol player in the Opéra orchestra that gave him the awareness of instrumental possibilities displayed here in this vivid Old Testament spectacular.

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William Christie conducts a characteristically excellent performance, and the large cast is fine all round. Jacques Bona shows lyric strength in the title role and Sophie Daneman sings with limpid beauty as Iphisa, the daughter of Jephtha whose sacrifice is narrowly averted. John Allison