LABELS: Musique en Wallonie
WORKS: Le martyre des Maccabées
PERFORMER: François-Nicolas Geslot, Anne Magouët, Alain Buet, Bruno Rostand, Matthieu Chapuis, Étienne Debaisieux, Renaud Tripathi, Benoît Porcherot; Les Agrémens; Namur Chamber Choir/Jean Tubéry
CATALOGUE NO: 0846-0847 109
This disc superbly reconstructs an important work by the little-known Pietro Torri. Attached to the court of Max Emanuel II, Elector of Bavaria, Torri followed the Elector as he moved his court around during the War of the Spanish Succession.
This oratorio – seemingly the first French work thus labelled – tells the apocryphal story of seven Jewish brothers tortured to death by the Syrian King Antiochus for their faith. Pitying the youngest brother, Antiochus offers to adopt him if he renounces Judaism, asking his mother to help save her son; both mother and son refuse to comply and are put to death. The grisly martyrology of the libretto would have resonated with Torri’s patron, who for years fled his enemies.
Scholars have written off Torri as an Alessandro Scarlatti wannabe whose limited harmonies and weak melodies undermine the quality of his works. Thanks to Jean Tubéry’s directorship, we can now finally appreciate Torri’s compositional strengths. Foreshadowing Gluck, Torri excelled in uniting Italian and French taste, combining French opera’s fluidity and grandeur with the affective charge of dramma per musica.
In Le martyre des Maccabées, recitative, binary air, choruses and interludes merge naturally, the scoring is imaginative, and tender airs, particularly those with flute accompaniment, are finely shaped. Tubéry is alert to these strengths in Torri’s writing, and more. His judicious rubatos allow tender passages to linger; robust metres sweep us through dance-based sections, and dynamic shading highlights the subtleties of Torri’s word-setting.
Apart from the tenor, the vocalists deliver a nuanced, lively reading, and the band persistently provides fresh ideas. Recorded ‘live’, this disc captures the excitement of the event without compromising on sound quality. Berta Joncus